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Introns: Sequences of DNA in the genes that are located between the Exons. They are transcribed along with the exons but are removed from the primary gene transcript by Rna splicing to leave mature RNA. Some introns code for separate genes.

Organization of Genes

JoVE 10786

The genomes of eukaryotes can be structured in several functional categories. A strand of DNA is comprised of genes and intergenic regions. Genes themselves consist of protein-coding exons and non-coding introns. Introns are excised once the sequence is transcribed to mRNA, leaving only exons to code for proteins.

In eukaryotic genomes, genes are separated by large stretches of DNA that do not code for proteins. However, these intergenic regions carry important elements that regulate gene activity, for instance, the promoter where transcription starts, and enhancers and silencers that fine-tune gene expression. Sometimes these binding sites can be located far away from the associated gene. As researchers investigated the process of gene transcription in eukaryotes, they realized that the final mRNA that codes for a protein is shorter than the DNA it is derived from. This difference in length is due to a process called splicing. Once pre-mRNA has been transcribed from DNA in the nucleus, splicing immediately removes introns and joins exons together. The result is protein-coding mRNA that moves to the cytoplasm and is translated into protein. One of the largest human genes, DMD, is over two million base pairs long. This gene encodes the muscle protein dystrophin. Mutations in DMD cause muscular dystrophy, a disorder characteri

 Core: Biology

RNA Splicing

JoVE 10802

The process in which eukaryotic RNA is edited prior to protein translation is called splicing. It removes regions that do not code for proteins and patches the protein-coding regions together. Splicing also allows several protein variants to be expressed from a single gene and plays an essential role in development, tissue differentiation, and adaptation to environmental stress. Errors in splicing can lead to diseases such as cancer. The RNA strand transcribed from eukaryotic DNA is called the primary transcript. The primary transcripts designated to become mRNA are called precursor messenger RNA (pre-mRNA). The pre-mRNA is then processed to form mature mRNA that is suitable for protein translation. Eukaryotic pre-mRNA contains alternating sequences of exons and introns. Exons are nucleotide sequences that code for proteins whereas introns are the non-coding regions. RNA splicing is the process by which introns are removed and exons patched together. Splicing is mediated by the spliceosome—a complex of proteins and RNA called small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs). The spliceosome recognizes specific nucleotide sequences at exon/intron boundaries. First, it binds to a GU-containing sequence at the 5’ end of the intron and to a branch point sequence containing an A towards the 3’ end of the intron. In a number of carefully-orches

 Core: Biology

pre-mRNA processing

JoVE 11003

In eukaryotic cells, transcripts made by RNA polymerase are modified and processed before exiting the nucleus. Unprocessed RNA is called precursor mRNA or pre-mRNA, to distinguish it from mature mRNA.

Once about 20-40 ribonucleotides have been joined together by RNA polymerase, a group of enzymes adds a “cap” to the 5’ end of the growing transcript. In this process, a 5’ phosphate is replaced by modified guanosine that has a methyl group attached to it. This 5’ cap helps the cell distinguish mRNA from other types of RNA in the cell and plays a role in subsequent translation. During or shortly after transcription, a large complex called the spliceosome cuts out various parts of the pre-mRNA transcript, rejoining the remaining sequences. RNA sequences that remain in the transcript are called “exons” (expressed sequences) while portions removed are called “introns”. Interestingly, a single RNA segment can be an exon in one cell type and an intron in another. Similarly, a single cell can contain multiple variants of a gene transcript that has been alternatively spliced, enabling the production of multiple proteins from a single gene. When transcription is completed, an enzyme adds approximately 30-200 adenine nucleotides to the 3’ end of the pre-mRNA molecule. This poly-A tail protects the mRNA f

 Core: Biology

Complementary DNA

JoVE 10818

Only genes that are transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA) are active, or expressed. Scientists can, therefore, extract the mRNA from cells to study gene expression in different cells and tissues. The scientist converts mRNA into complementary DNA (cDNA) via reverse transcription. Because mRNA does not contain introns (non-coding regions) and other regulatory sequences, cDNA—unlike genomic DNA—also allows researchers to directly determine the amino acid sequence of the peptide encoded by the gene. cDNA can be generated by several methods, but a common way is to first extract total RNA from cells, and then isolate the mRNA from the more predominant types—transfer RNA (tRNA) and ribosomal (rRNA). Mature eukaryotic mRNA has a poly(A) tail—a string of adenine nucleotides—added to its 3’ end, while other types of RNA do not. Therefore, a string of thymine nucleotides (oligo-dTs) can be attached to a substrate such as a column or magnetic beads, to specifically base-pair with the poly(A) tails of mRNA. While mRNA with a poly(A) tail is captured, the other types of RNA are washed away. Next, reverse transcriptase—a DNA polymerase enzyme from retroviruses—is used to generate cDNA from the mRNA. Since, like most DNA polymerases, reverse transcriptase can add nucleotides only to the 3’ end of a chain, a pol

 Core: Biology

MicroRNAs

JoVE 10801

MicroRNA (miRNA) are short, regulatory RNA transcribed from introns—non-coding regions of a gene—or intergenic regions—stretches of DNA present between genes. Several processing steps are required to form biologically active, mature miRNA. The initial transcript, called primary miRNA (pri-mRNA), base-pairs with itself forming a stem-loop structure. Within the nucleus, an endonuclease enzyme, called Drosha, shortens the stem-loop structure into hairpin-shaped pre-miRNA. After the pre-miRNA ends have been methylated to prevent degradation, it is exported from the nucleus into the cytoplasm. In the cytoplasm, another endonuclease enzyme, called Dicer, cuts the pre-miRNA into a 21-24 nucleotide-long miRNA duplex. Then, Dicer cleaves one strand of the duplex, releasing a single strand of mature miRNA. The mature miRNA is loaded into a protein complex called RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), which the miRNA then guides to the complementary region of its target mRNA. The extent of complementary base-pairing between miRNA and 3’ untranslated region of target mRNA determines the gene silencing mechanism. Extensive or near-perfect complementarity causes degradation of mRNA, whereas limited base-pairing inhibits translation. While silencing via mRNA degradation is irreversible, translation inhibition is reversible since stable mRNA can

 Core: Biology

What is Gene Expression?

JoVE 10797

Gene expression is the process in which DNA directs the synthesis of functional products, such as proteins. Cells can regulate gene expression at various stages. It allows organisms to generate different cell types and enables cells to adapt to internal and external factors.

A gene is a stretch of DNA that serves as the blueprint for functional RNAs and proteins. Since DNA is made up of nucleotides and proteins consist of amino acids, a mediator is required to convert the information that is encoded in DNA into proteins. This mediator is the messenger RNA (mRNA). mRNA copies the blueprint from DNA by a process called transcription. In eukaryotes, transcription takes place in the nucleus by complementary base-pairing with the DNA template. The mRNA is then processed and transported into the cytoplasm where it serves as a template for protein synthesis during translation. In prokaryotes, which lack a nucleus, the processes of transcription and translation occur at the same location and almost simultaneously since the newly-formed mRNA is susceptible to rapid degradation. Every cell of an organism contains the same DNA, and consequently the same set of genes. However, not all genes in a cell are “turned on” or use to synthesize proteins. A gene is said to be “expressed” when the protein it encodes is produced by the cell. Gen

 Core: Biology

An Overview of Gene Expression

JoVE 5546

Gene expression is the complex process where a cell uses its genetic information to make functional products. This process is regulated at multiple stages, and any misregulation could lead to diseases such as cancer.

This video highlights important historical discoveries relating to gene expression, including the…

 Genetics

An Introduction to Developmental Genetics

JoVE 5325

Development is the complex process through which a single-celled embryo transforms into a multicellular organism. Developmental processes are guided by information encoded in an organism's DNA, and geneticists are trying to understand how this information leads to a fully formed organism.


This video reviews seminal research in the field of developmental biology, including the…

 Developmental Biology
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