From a loose string to a compact globule: scientists reshape our understanding of messenger RNA

Messenger RNA (mRNA) is the universal blueprint for protein production. Biology textbooks often depict mRNAs as an extended, string-like molecule that slithers out of the cell nucleus into the cytoplasm to be translated into a protein. How cells ensure that only correct mRNAs are allowed to leave the nucleus has been a black box for decades. In a study now published in the journal Nature, scientists in the lab of Clemens Plaschka at the IMP investigated how correct mRNAs are identified and prepared for nuclear export. Their study also shows that mRNAs form compact globules before they exit the nucleus. These findings revise our understanding of mRNA and pave the way for further investigations of the life cycle of mRNA.

A human mRNA-protein complex (grey, shades of orange, purple) is being recognised and packaged by two TREX complexes, illustrated as hands (credit: Belén Pacheco-Fiallos)

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