Researchers at the Partner Institute for Computational Biology (PICB), established by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the German Max Planck Gesellschaft, unraveled the existence and mechanisms behind circular RNA molecules.
RNA usually carries information from cellular DNA. This information is used to produce proteins and to regulate all kinds of cellular processes. Historically, DNA and RNA are approached as linear carriers, although exceptions have been observed already since the 70s.
A recent line of reports has gradually started to dismiss the idea of rarity with respect to circular RNA. Now, a group of scientists lead by Yang Li from the PICB has indicated that the existence of circular RNAs is actually quite common… and very complex. A number of homologous genes in human and mouse both produce circular RNA molecules, although some sequences of the murine and the human ones may tend to be quite different.
These circular RNA molecules are likely to be functional, and in theory could consist of an endless array of possibilities. Most intriguingly, the information content of genes is now theoretically without limitations, and this would spark a new revolution genomics. Alternatively, circular RNA molecules may also functions based on their spatiotemporal presences regardless of their information content, such as being a decoy for RNA degrading enzymes.
The article was published in Cell in September 2014.