The September 2013 issue of UNC Medical Builletin highlights Zefeng Wang's paper about gene splicing, introns and splicing repression in the January 2013 issue of Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, "A complex network of factors with overlapping affinities represses splicing through intronic elements," Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2013 Jan;20(1):36-45. Dr. Wang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology.
Dr. Wang explains that about 10 percent of the genetic material produces proteins that do what the cell needs done to function properly. These regions are called exons. The other 90 percent of genetic material is composed of introns. Introns were commonly referred to as "junk DNA," a term coined by Francis Crick, because no one had figured out what they did. Now Dr. Wang and his colleagues have determined that the process of gene assemblage, or gene splicing, involves both exons and introns. Protein factors, which play a role in the gene splicing process, are brought into play by introns. "It turns out the sequencing element in both exons and introns can regulate the splicing process," Dr. Wang says."We call it the splicing code, which is the information that tells the cell to splice one way or the other." When this process goes awry, disease can occur. (from the January, 2013 Endeavors article, "Genetic Junk or Jewels?" by Mark Derewicz)
This paper was also highlighted in the January 2013 issue of UNC Endeavors.
Read the UNC School of Medicine press release detailing more about the paper
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