The researchers used a new sequencing technology called RNA-seq, a technology related to the latest DNA sequencers used to decode our genomes, to map gene activity in the different layers of the mouse cerebral cortex.
The technique is also able to detect ‘non-coding RNAs’, ie RNAs produced from DNA in between known genes that doesn’t code for proteins but may play a critical role in regulating genes and controlling biological processes.
‘We see a vast array of non-coding RNAs – hundreds that have never been seen before, but presumably have a biological role to play in the brain,’ says Professor Molnár. ‘One of the most abundant RNAs produced in the mouse brain is a noncoding RNA.’
The approach also reveals RNAs which, once read off from our DNA code, are stitched together in different ways through a process called ‘alternative splicing’. The process results in different proteins that can have different biological roles, despite coming from the same gene.
- T. Grant Belgard, Ana C. Marques, Peter L. Oliver, Hatice Ozel Abaan, Tamara M. Sirey, Anna Hoerder-Suabedissen, Fernando García-Moreno, Zoltán Molnár, Elliott H. Margulies, Chris P. Ponting (2011) A Transcriptomic Atlas of Mouse Neocortical Layers. Neuron 71(4), 605-16. [abstract]