Investigators at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts have looked at centrosomes in cells of clams and found evidence of RNA’s presence:
Despite more than a century of study, scientists know relatively little about the inner workings of centrosomes–organelles essential to cell division in humans and animals. Now new research by scientists studying surf clams at the MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) shows that centrosomes may contain ribonucleic acid (RNA), the molecule that translates genes into proteins.
The research, published June 5 in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that centrosomes may carry at least some of their own genetic machinery and offers new opportunities to answer long-held questions about centrosome function, heredity, and evolution. The article will also be published in the journal’s June 13 print edition.
Centrosomes play a key role in cell division. When the process begins, a single centrosome copies itself and the two organelles migrate to the cell’s edges, where they help tease apart the chromosomes, and assure genetic stability from cell to cell. In fact, centrosome instabilities have been linked to tumor malignancies, so answering basic questions about how these organelles work may ultimately aid cancer research.
The clam centrosome study, led by MBL summer investigator Mark Alliegro of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC), in collaboration with Mary Anne Alliegro of LSUHSC and Robert Palazzo, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, detected five RNA sequences in clam eggs that appear to be unique to the centrosome. “The implications are broad and I expect there will be lively discussion on their meaning for topics from cell division to eukaryotic evolution. At this point we know very little about their function or origins, but we are confident they represent a special set of transcripts,” says Dr. Mark Alliegro.
The findings are likely to spark debate among biologists who have contemplated how these organelles self replicate. Although the consensus is that centrosomes lack DNA, the question of whether they contain RNA has never been adequately answered. “The RNA question has always been controversial, but we couldn’t close the door on it,” says Dr. Palazzo. “This is the first really good evidence that nucleic acid co-purifies with the centrosome, which means it is physically present.”
Image caption: Clam centrosomes (center in green) encased in RNA (blue) provide strong evidence that the RNA is closely associated with these organelles. Image by Mary Anne Alliegro.
The press release…