In a recent publication first-authored by Mariana Lopes, a PhD student supervised by Raquel Chaves (PI at the CytoGenomics lab, BioISI/UTAD), Margarida Gama-Carvalho (PI at the RNA Systems Biology, BioISI/Ciências ULisboa), and Sandra Louzada (researcher at CytoGenomics lab, BioISI/UTAD), human satellite 1A transcription was studied for the first time. Human pericentromeric satellites are highly repeated sequences and can be transcribed into non-coding RNAs with relevant functions in the genomes. Discover more below about this paper published on BMC Biology

What was the starting point that led to the current research?

When compared with other classical satellite DNA families, satellite 1A was understudied. Hence, we decided to investigate its genomic presence and transcription profile in a panel of human tumoral and non-tumoral cell lines.

What is the main finding reported in this paper?

This paper highlights that satellite 1A is transcribed, both in non-tumoral and tumoral cell lines, at different levels. In a tumoral setting, the transcripts size varies due to alternative polyadenylation events.

If you had to explain the main finding to a 5-year-old child, how would you do it?

In cancer, the amount of some molecules (non-coding RNAs) can vary. We investigated if our subject molecule (satellite 1A non-coding RNA) was one of them, having found different quantities in different cancers.

Why is it important for the scientific community and for society at large?

As human genomic studies are expanding to repetitive regions, the interest in pericentromeric sequences is growing amongst researchers. The reasons lie with the awareness of extreme population variations and evidences of a relevant role of non-coding RNAs in disease. In the current context, knowledge regarding one of the least tackled pericentromeric sequences, becomes valuable.

What are the next steps?

Our team is currently performing functional studies, to uncover the mechanistic role of human satellite 1A overexpression in cancer.

Read the full paper here.

From Left to Right: Mariana Lopes, Sandra Louzada , Daniela Ferreira , Gabriela Veríssimo , Daniel Eleutério, Margarida Gama-Carvalho and Raquel Chaves [images provided by the researchers]