Small non coding RNAs – regulators of gene expression

Sequencing of the complete human genome revealed that only a very small proportion of the genetic information is protein coding. Approximately 90% of the human genome, however, is not protein coding and was initially considered to be some kind of evolutionary ‘junk-DNA’. Today, we know that almost all non-coding DNA is actively transcribed to RNA and that such RNA molecules are very important for many cellular processes. During the last years of intensive research, it became clear that non-coding RNAs are involved in the regulation of different diseases like neurodegenerative diseases or cancer. The investigation of these RNAs is just at its beginning and future studies will certainly result in new prospects for cancer research.

Our research at the Max-Planck-institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried and at the University of Regensburg focuses on the understanding of a specific class of non-coding RNAs. These RNAs characterized by their length of about 18-35 nucleotides and are therefore known as small regulatory or small non-coding RNAs. The two most important members of this class are microRNAs (miRNAs) and short interfering RNAs (siRNAs). siRNAs are the first regulatory RNAs that have been discovered and responsible for the phenomenon called RNA-interference (RNAi).

RNA-interference (RNAi)

RNAi - from bench to bedside

miRNAs and the fine tuning of gene expression

miRNAs and cancer