The US Post Office tried it a few years back when they added those four extra digits onto our zip codes, allowing advertisers to target us with SPAM with utmost precision. At EpiGenie, we too, are always looking for simpler ways to pass along targeted information (RSS feeds, telepathy etc.,) to an ever-increasing population of diverse readers. Apparently we could learn something from genes during development as they’ve had this situation addressed for some time now using the 3’ untranslated regions (UTRs) of our genes.
That’s right, some nice work just showed up in PNAS this week compliments of a team of researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey that showed 3’ UTRs of mouse mRNAs lengthen as they progress through embryonic development. The process appears to be controlled by alternative polyadenylation (APA) and as the population of cells progressed through development (morphogenesis, differentiation, and proliferation), the mRNA alternative polyadenylation patterns also get more diverse.
The team uncovered this trend using a cocktail of EST, SAGE, and microarrays to compare total reads specific to distal APA sites to those from sites independent of APA. Their results suggest that APA, by producing these alternative longer UTRs (aUTRs), lays the groundwork for more effective post-transcriptional regulation by miRNAs.
Now if only we could find a way to encrypt complex information in one transcript that each reader could interpret uniquely… Catch the action at PNAS, April 2009