Squids are able to independently edit their genetic information. The discovery was made by scientists from the Marine Biological Laboratory, a description of which was published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research.
In 2015, scientists discovered that squid “edit” their information in RNA to an extraordinary degree – an order of magnitude more than humans. This allows them to fine-tune the type of protein that will be produced in the nervous system.
Until now, researchers believed that editing takes place in the nucleus of a neuron, and then modified messenger RNAs enter the cell. However, new research has shown that this is not so.
Editing takes place not only in the nuclei of neurons, but also in the axon – long, thin neural projections that transmit electrical impulses to other neurons. This is the first case known to science when self-editing of genetic information is observed outside the nucleus of an animal cell.
“Now we show that squid can modify RNA at the periphery of the cell. This means that theoretically they can modify the function of the protein to meet the localized needs of the cell. This gives them many opportunities to adapt genetic information”.
Joshua Rosenthal, lead author of the study
In humans, axon dysfunction is associated with many neurological disorders. The discovery of scientists can accelerate the introduction of the natural process of editing RNA in humans for therapeutic purposes, the author writes.