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Plant Physiol. 2001 Nov;127(3):765-76.

Identification and analysis of Arabidopsis expressed sequence tags characteristic of non-coding RNAs.

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  • 1Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


Sequencing of the Arabidopsis genome has led to the identification of thousands of new putative genes based on the predicted proteins they encode. Genes encoding tRNAs, ribosomal RNAs, and small nucleolar RNAs have also been annotated; however, a potentially important class of genes has largely escaped previous annotation efforts. These genes correspond to RNAs that lack significant open reading frames and encode RNA as their final product. Accumulating evidence indicates that such "non-coding RNAs" (ncRNAs) can play critical roles in a wide range of cellular processes, including chromosomal silencing, transcriptional regulation, developmental control, and responses to stress. Approximately 15 putative Arabidopsis ncRNAs have been reported in the literature or have been annotated. Although several have homologs in other plant species, all appear to be plant specific, with the exception of signal recognition particle RNA. Conversely, none of the ncRNAs reported from yeast or animal systems have homologs in Arabidopsis or other plants. To identify additional genes that are likely to encode ncRNAs, we used computational tools to filter protein-coding genes from genes corresponding to 20,000 expressed sequence tag clones. Using this strategy, we identified 19 clones with characteristics of ncRNAs, nine putative peptide-coding RNAs with open reading frames smaller than 100 amino acids, and 11 that could not be differentiated between the two categories. Again, none of these clones had homologs outside the plant kingdom, suggesting that most Arabidopsis ncRNAs are likely plant specific. These data indicate that ncRNAs represent a significant and underdeveloped aspect of Arabidopsis genomics that deserves further study.

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