Sunday, September 1, 2013


Over the past decade, I have been trying to identify some of the most difficult transcripts, such as the antisense transcripts at the FRM1 (asFMR1) and the Ataxin-7 (SCAANT1) loci [HMG, 2007, 16(24), Neuron, 2011 70(6)].  What is so challenging about these transcripts is the sequence.  Each contain repetitive CGG and CAG regions, respectively.  However, the biggest challenge has come from the scientific community, which has and absolute aversion to antisense transcripts, bidirectional transcription, and many noncoding RNAs.

I have read or heard every possible argument as to why these transcripts are unimportant.  Yet, more and more groups are finding noncoding or seemingly noncoding transcripts.  I have faith that we will eventually have a clear picture of the transcriptome, but the persistent wading through the muck is slowing down progress.  I have to ask my scientific peers, why be a road block?  At the end of the day, does it make you feel better about your scientific progress to block the progress of others?  Or do you hold so dearly the central Dogma DNA->RNA->Protein that you cannot imagine what else is happening in the cell?

Greater than 90% of the human genome is transcribed, at some point in time.  The validity of this observation seems to be one of the hardest to convince non-RNA biologists.  There seems to be a disconnect in understanding how our genomic sequence.  I am always surprised that there are highly educated scientists who would rather believe that the majority of our genome is nonfunctional, or better yet, unimportant.  Yet, we evolved to carry this much genetic information.  Of course, I have heard many a technician exclaim that we have not evolved enough, but that is for another day.  Instead, I will post one of my favorite figures from a fairly recent publication.  Here we see an updated view of the activity at a single gene locus. So much effort from so many research groups!  And I know the hurdles faced by all of us to get this information to the masses.  If only our "peers" could have had more open minds, we could be further along.

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