How many times have you seen it? Documentaries where cephalopods show infinite instant adaptation skills. Within the cephalopods there are squid, cuttlefish, octopus and other species. They have an incredible ability to blend in with the environment and go unnoticed. They eject jets of ink to disorient their predators. They glow in the abyssal darkness of the ocean. Or in the case of the octopus, escapist unparalleled in nature, they can be contorted taking the most unlikely forms. Now another super skill is discovered. Squids are genetically modified, but in an unsuspected way. Like no other animal ever did.
Inside and outside the cell
Scientists from the universities of Tel Aviv and Denver Colorado. Was in collaboration with researchers from the Chicago Institute of Marine Biology (MBL). They have discovered that squids are capable of editing their own genetic instructions. However, there is something that makes the finding special. This edition occurs only within the nucleus of your neurons – since it is the nucleus of the cells where the genetic information is found – but that it also takes place in the axon of your nerve cells. Yes, in long thin projections external to the cells of the nervous system. They are the ones that transmit the electrical impulse between neurons.
The research findings are published this week in the specialist journal. Nucleic Acids Research. The article is called Spatially regulated editing of genetic information within a neuron. This is the first time that a genetic editing process has been observed outside the nucleus of an animal cell.
The discovery shakes up one of the "central premises" of molecular biology. This establishes that genetic information is faithfully transmitted from DNA to messenger RNA. And then to protein synthesis. In 2015, Josua RosenthaHe, co-director of the study, discovered that squids modify their messenger RNA instructions in an extraordinary way. They do it in orders of magnitude much higher than the way humans do it. This allows them to adjust the type of proteins that will be produced in the nervous system.
“We thought that all of the RNA editing took place in the nucleus. and then the modified messenger RNA was exported to the cell, "explains Rosenthal. "We are now demonstrating that squids can modify RNA at the periphery of the cell. What does this mean? They can modify the function of proteins to meet the localized demands of the cell. This gives them great freedom to adapt genetic information as necessary. "
Knowing that squids are genetically modified in this peculiar way opens some doors. In humans, neuronal axon dysfunction is associated with many neurological disorders. How much can be learned from this discovery remains to be seen.