Scientists find new roles for old RNAs
Scientists have discovered unexpected functions of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) that explain the cause of some diseases. The loss of small nucleolar RNAs is associated with a number of diseases, including Prader-Willi syndrome and several forms of cancers; and genetic duplications of some snoRNAs could play a role in autism. However, it is not clear how the change in snoRNA expression could lead to these diseases. Using RNA sequencing and molecular biology techniques, the researchers found that snoRNAs not only modify ribosomes, but can also regulate alternative splicing. Through this second function, they regulate protein function and inhibit the generation of wrong protein variants. This explains the role of snoRNAs in human diseases, as upon their loss the formation of wrong protein variants can no longer be prevented.