The Department of Biomedicine

BBB seminar: Eivind Valen

Searching for function in the dark matter of the genome

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Eivind Valen
Computational Biology Unit, Department of Informatics, University of Bergen

While most of the genome is transcribed, only a fraction codes for proteins. The remaining non-coding transcripts have been referred to as “the dark matter of the genome” and is largely uncharacterized. Using embryogenesis as a system we found that many long non-coding RNAs are highly regulated, that the majority are more temporally restricted than proteins and that many display tissue-specific expression. However, the lack of obvious conservation for most non-coding RNAs raises the question whether mere regulation is indeed indicative of function.

Through high-throughput profiling of active translation we showed, furthermore, that several of these presumed non-coding RNAs harbor short "micropeptides" and that translation is significantly more pervasive than with canonical genes. Gene annotation has been biased against short peptides and an unbiased view could expand the catalog of genes significantly. However, analogous to non-coding RNAs, existence does not equal function and this “dark matter of the proteome” has yet to prove its value.

Chairperson: Karin Wibrand, Department of Biomedicine