Plant RNAs Found in Mammals
By CRISTINA LUIGGI - THESCIENTIST
Added: Tue, 20 Sep 2011 17:11:28 UTC
MicroRNAs from plants accumulate in mammalian blood and tissues, where they can regulate gene expression.
MicroRNAs from common plant crops such as rice and cabbage can be found in the blood and tissues of humans and other plant-eating mammals, according to a study published today in Cell Research. One microRNA in particular, MIR168a, which is highly enriched in rice, was found to inhibit a protein that helps removes low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from the blood, suggesting that microRNAs can influence gene expression across kingdoms.
“This is a very exciting piece of work that suggests that the food we eat may directly regulate gene expression in our bodies,” said Clay Marsh, Director of the Center for Personalized Health Care at the Ohio State University College of Medicine who researches microRNA expression in human blood but who was not involved in the study.
MicroRNAs are, as the name implies, very short RNA sequences (approximately 22 nucleotides in length) discovered in the early 1990s. They are known to modulate gene expression by binding to mRNA, often resulting in inhibition. With the recent discovery that microRNAs circulate the blood by hitching a ride in small membrane-encased particles known as microvesicles (see our July 2011 feature on microvesicles, “Exosome Explosion”), there has been a surge of interest in microRNAs as a novel class of biomarkers for a variety of diseases.
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