16.09.2016 change 16.09.2016

Paramecium tetraurelia - inconspicuous, unusual object of study

Non-coding RNAs are a possible target in anticancer therapy. Will a single-celled protozoan Paramecium tetraurelia contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms involved and bring scientists closer to finding effective therapies?

We remember Paramecium tetraurelia from our first biology textbooks. Most of us carefully copied anatomical details of this unicellular ciliated organism to notebooks. Now it turns out that Paramecium tetraurelia is not only an excellent education model, but also research model.

Paramecium tetraurelia is easy to grow. It is not a pathogenic organism, the cell is large and the cytoskeleton structure very complex. In laboratories Paramecium tetraurelia is commonly a model for the study of cilia, because the cilia dysfunction causes many human diseases.

Due to the existence of different classes of non-coding RNAs - ribonucleic acids which exhibit various biological functions - in Paramecium tetraurelia, this protozoan also constitutes an excellent model to study the biogenesis of non-coding RNAs, the processes associated with their formation and function.

Non-coding RNAs are ribonucleic acid molecules that are not used for protein synthesis. They perform important functions during development, they are responsible for the stability of the genome, proper functioning of cells, and they regulate the process of rewriting the information contained in DNA into RNA. The associated defects are characteristic of many human diseases, especially cancer.

Winner of the START scholarship of the Foundation for Polish Science, Dr. Kamila Maliszewska-Olejniczak from the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics PAS uses Paramecium tetraurelia model to study the non-coding RNA biogenesis during sexual process.

"In Paramecium tetraurelia there are two types of nuclei - macro- and micronucleus. Macronucleus expresses all genes, but there is no continuation in the sexual progeny, because it is degraded during the reproductive process. The second nucleus - micronucleus gives rise to a new macronucleus during the reproductive cycle - is subject to a complex change, so-called genomic rearrangement, during which some DNA sequences are eliminated. This process involves various classes of non-coding RNAs that mediate the epigenetic transfer of information from micronucleus to the new macronucleus" - described the researcher.

Research conducted during Dr. Maliszewska-Olejniczak\'s doctoral studies led to the discovery of transcription factor TFIIS in Paramecium tetraurelia and determining its role in the synthesis of long non-coding RNAs during the development of new macronucleus. The researcher was the first to demonstrate the role of this protein in non-coding transcription and epigenetic information transfer. These results were published in the journal "PLOS Genetics" in 2015.

Today, Dr. Maliszewska-Olejniczak continues research under the supervision of Dr. Jacek Nowak under an OPUS grant of the National Science Centre "Studying the mechanisms involved in the synthesis of non-coding transcripts" in the Laboratory of DNA Sequencing and Oligonucleotide Synthesis of the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics PAS, headed by Dr. Robert Gromadka. She also has a START scholarship from the Foundation for Polish Science.

PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland, Karolina Duszczyk

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