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A Key Role for Circular RNA in muscular cells

Circular RNA, which has only recently been discovered thanks to the development of advanced RNA sequencing technology, is abundant in all organisms, including humans, but its role in the modulation of physiological processes is still unclear.

Researchers at the lab directed by Irene Bozzoni from the Sapienza "Charles Darwin" Biology and Biotechnology Department, in collaboration with the Max Delbruck Center in Berlin and the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Milan, have identified circular RNA in muscle cells and have developed a strategy to analyze its function. They found that one of these molecules - circ-ZNF609 - is involved in controlling cell proliferation and could play an important role in the development of tumors.

Moreover, the circular circ-ZNF609 RNA has a very particular characteristic: it can be translated into a protein, a characteristic that was formerly believed to be the exclusive prerogative of linear RNA (the RNA messengers). The different translational regulation of circular RNA compared to that of RNA messengers reveals a further level of complexity in cellular response to changes in the external environment.

"This discovery,” explains Irene Bozzoni, “adds new insight to the mechanisms underlying the operation of informational macromolecules and allows us to start a new phase of studies based both on the study of cell proliferation and new protein production control mechanisms."

References: "Circ-ZNF609 is a circular RNA That can be translated and functions in myogenesis".

Authors: Ivano Legnini, Gaia Di Timoteo, Francesca Rossi, Mariangela Morlando, Francesca Briganti, Olga Sthandier, Alessandro Fatica, Tiziana Santini, Adrian Andronache, Mark Wade, Pietro La Neve, Nikolaus Rajewsky, Irene Bozzoni. Molecular Cell, in press