A U.S. science team says its research is adding weight to the emerging idea that RNA partly determines the inherited characteristics of plants and animals.
Vicki Chandler and colleagues at the University of Arizona studied a phenomenon called paramutation -- a form of non-mendelian inheritance in which one allele of a gene can heritably dampen the expression of another. They hunted gene called mop1, which is required for paramutation at the b1 locus in maize, and found it produces an enzyme that manufactures RNA.
The team theorizes that enzyme produces RNA from unique tandem repeats of DNA, which are also essential for paramutation at that locus.
Although the details are not yet known, the scientists say the repeat RNA may accumulate to a threshold level at which it establishes and maintains the heritable state of chromatin (DNA attached to proteins) required for silencing the maize b1 locus.
The study is explained in the current issue of the journal Nature. (UPI)