Scientists at the Babraham Institute have gained a new understanding of how the growth of the placenta is regulated before birth, which has important implications for a healthy pregnancy. The research shows that the controlled release of a specific molecule, called miR-675, slows down growth of the placenta before birth.
RNA molecules are best known as the intermediary between the cell’s DNA and the making of proteins necessary for cell function. However, there are also many RNA molecules with functions other than encoding proteins. Babraham Institute scientists are involved in researching the role of these noncoding RNAs, including microRNAs (a type of short noncoding RNA molecule) which are important for regulating cell development and function.
The noncoding RNA H19 is one of the most abundant RNA molecules found in mammals but until now its function was unknown. This study, in collaboration with academics in France, the USA and Belgium, is the first to show that a microRNA called miR-675 is ‘cut out’ and released from the longer H19 RNA in the placenta and that this limits placental growth.