MIT reels in RNA surprise with microbial ocean catch
An ingenious new method of obtaining marine microbe samples while preserving the microbes’ natural gene expression has yielded an unexpected boon: the presence of many varieties of small RNAs — snippets of RNA that act as switches to regulate gene expression in these single-celled creatures. Before now, small RNA could only be studied in lab-cultured microorganisms; the discovery of its presence in a natural setting may make it possible finally to learn on a broad scale how microbial communities living at different ocean depths and regions respond to environmental stimuli. Edward DeLong, a professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) and biological engineering, and co-authors Yanmei Shi, a graduate student in CEE, and postdoctoral associate Gene Tyson describe this work in the May 14 issue of Nature. Read more.