PUBLIC TALK: The Central Role of RNA in Human Evolution and Development
|The Central Role of RNA in Human Evolution and Development : The 2016 Ian Constable Lecture
The 2016 Ian Constable Lecture by Professor John Mattick, Executive Director, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney.
The genomic programming of human development has been misunderstood because of the initially reasonable, but ultimately incorrect, assumption that most genetic information is transacted by proteins. The human genome genome contains only ~20,000 protein-coding genes, similar in number as those in other animals, including simple nematodes. By contrast, the extent of non-protein-coding DNA increases with increasing developmental and cognitive complexity, reaching 98.5% in humans. Moreover, the vast majority of these sequences are differentially transcribed during development to produce tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of short and long non-protein-coding RNAs.
Noncoding RNAs show highly specific expression patterns, and increasing numbers are being shown to play important roles in human development, as well as in cancer and other complex diseases. These RNAs function at many different levels of gene expression, including translational control and guidance of the epigenetic processes that underpin development, physiological adaptation, and brain function. The latter appear to be empowered by the superimposition of plasticity on RNA-directed epigenetic processes by RNA editing, RNA modifications and retrotransposon mobilisation. Moreover there is now strong evidence for transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, also mediated by RNA, which raises the possibility that RNA is not only the underlying engine of cell biology, developmental biology and cognition, but perhaps also of evolution itself.
The annual Ian Constable lecture is presented by the Lions Eye Institute and the UWA Institute of Advanced Studies and honours the work of Professor Ian Constable.
Professor Constable is recognised as one of the world’s leading ophthalmic surgeons. He was appointed the Lions Foundation Chair of Ophthalmology in 1975. In 1983 Professor Constable established the Lions Eye Institute (LEI) dedicated to the prevention and treatment of blindness and eye disease. Today the LEI is a not-for-profit centre of excellence that combines world class scientific research into the prevention of blindness with the highest level of eye care delivery, combining the expertise of researchers and ophthalmologists.
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