Researchers at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) announce the discovery of a new role for ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi). The mechanism was until now known only for its role in ensuring that repetitive, super-compact clumps of DNA called heterochromatin are inherited from one cellular copy to the next.
In a paper published in the October 16 advanced online issue of the top scientific journal Nature, CSHL researchers say that RNAi is apparently also responsible for allowing the DNA replication process itself to progress smoothly, thus avoiding inflicting damage on sensitive DNA during duplication.
“This finding raised the question of what role RNAi actually plays during the replication phase of the cell cycle. The answers to both questions turned out to be very simple and elegant,” CSHL professor Rob Martienssen says. He was also the leader of the team that carried put the research.
“These experiments have revealed the real role of RNAi during the cell’s replication phase, which is to protect cells from […] replication-associated […] damage,” the researcher concludes.