RNA editing

The universe around us is full of so many wonders, we stumble upon its secrets every other day and still, there is more and more that we discover as we study our universe further. Recently scientists at the Tel Aviv University discovered that Squid and Octopuses can alter their own genetics! They are capable of a process called RNA editing.

Octopuses among all other species of organisms are quite smart. They can do things most other organisms are not capable of. Octopuses can make decisions and solve complex problems when tested by researchers. They can change color instantaneously which equips them with a baffling camouflage ability.

Recently, scientists have discovered that they can also alter their own RNA in a process called RNA editing. It is a special type of re-coding genes. These marine organisms simply keep surprising us all.

Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a polymeric molecule essential in various biological roles in coding, decoding, regulation, and expression of genes. RNA delivers the message from DNA in living organisms to make proteins. In most organisms RNA transfers the message on but as scientists have discovered, some organisms like the cuttlefish, squid, and octopuses are capable of editing their RNA.

This means that the message sent by DNA via RNA is changed which results in changing the protein formed. Studies are still underway to understand this whole mechanism, its reasons of occurring and its implications in the organisms.

RNA editing is a molecular process through which some cells can make discrete changes to specific nucleotide sequences within an RNA molecule after it has been generated by RNA polymerase.

Joshua Rosenthal at the Marine Biological Laboratory, who is leading a group of scientists researching this phenomenon, said,

“When do they turn it on, and under what environmental influences? It could be something as simple as temperature changes or as complicated as experience, a form of memory.”

The ability to edit their RNA also implies that these organisms have forsaken standard evolution in favor of frequent RNA changes. Why they require these changes is still a mystery. Octopuses have very impressive brains and their brainpower is unparalleled compared to many other species.

The interesting fact here is that the edited proteins produced after the process of RNA editing were found in the octopus’s brain. Therefore, this whole process could be linked to enhancing their brainpower.

Much more research is required to understand this phenomenon, why it occurs, and under what conditions. Also, the exact mechanism of this whole process is unknown to scientists.

As of now, we only know that these organisms exhibit RNA editing and much of the rest is just a hypothesis at this stage. Scientists of the University of Chicago believe this process of RNA editing could be a form of “instant evolution”. This allows these organisms to very quickly adapt to their surroundings.

Further research into this phenomenon could possibly prove beneficial for research about human development, aging, and learning. Processes occurring inside these remarkable marine organisms could be the answer to many of our own long standing questions.

Only time and more research will tell what new secrets will be unraveled about these organisms. So far, this new discovery is quite astounding and shows how little we know about the world we live in. Even after countless mind blowing discoveries, our world never ceases to amaze us in the most unexpected ways.

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