Squid switch up messages

11 April 2015
Posted by Kat Arney.

Scientists have made a surprising discovery about squid, according to a new paper in the journal eLife. When genes are read, cells copy the information encoded in DNA to produce messages called RNA. This RNA is then used as the instructions to create proteins - the building blocks of the cell.

For a long time it was thought that RNA was a faithful copy of the DNA template, but it's now known that some of the letters in the RNA messages can be changed - a process known as RNA editing. There are examples of editing in many organisms, including humans, worms and fruit flies, but it's not thought to be a hugely widespread phenomenon.

Now researchers in Puerto Rico have discovered that squid edit their RNA on a massive scale, with around 60 per cent of their RNA being edited in the brain - corresponding to an incredible 57,000 sites that differ from the original DNA, compared to around 100 known sites in humans and 600 in fruit flies. The scientists think this might create more diversity in the proteins that are in the squid brain, helping the animals to quickly adapt to changes in their environment such as alterations in temperature.

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