All in one Place

(September 30th, 2014) So, you work with non-coding RNA and have been complaining about the lack of a centralised database for years? Your pleas have been answered. Recently, RNAcentral, a unified resource for all types of non-coding RNA data, was launched.

RNA is not just an intermediate molecule in the production of proteins from DNA, as it was traditionally thought and taught. Over recent years, it has become clear that RNA can have many other functions. RNA, which does not code for proteins, is known as non-coding RNA. And there are many types of non-coding RNA, playing a variety of important roles within living organisms – just think of transfer RNAs, ribosomal RNA, piRNAs, siRNAs and microRNAs, for instance. Until now, however, all the information on these non-coding RNAs have not been put in one place. This is about to change with the new RNAcentral database, which can be freely accessed by all. So, what’s the database’s story?

The idea for the RNAcentral database initially arose following a workshop held on the Wellcome Genome Campus in 2010, where scientists working in the field of non-coding RNA gathered to discuss the lack of centralised access to RNA data. Then, in 2012, Paul Kersey and Guy Cochrane from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Cambridge, London (UK) successfully won over £600k (ca. €800k) from the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), to fund three years work to develop ‘RNAcentral’. And finally, this month, they announced the launch of version 1.0 of this database. The site, which consolidates information from multiple expert databases and provides tools for browsing, contains approximately eight million sequences.

Alex Bateman, Senior Team Leader at EMBL-EMI explains in a press release that “there is plenty of published data on non-coding RNAs but each subtype is maintained separately. This is the first time we have a central place where you can find it all: piRNAs, ribosomal RNAs, everything. A lot of that information has typically been locked up in supplementary materials, or referred to only by a non-standard gene name. RNAcentral is a big step towards making RNA sequence as easy to access for research as protein sequence.”

Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, adds “Fundamental research into non-coding RNAs has many potential applications, including disease diagnostics, new therapies and biotechnology. With the abundance of data now available due to next generation DNA sequencing, there is an urgent need for informatics tools to decipher it. RNAcentral is a vital resource that will aggregate and integrate information to unify the data landscape and improve the discoverability and use of data by researchers worldwide.”

The RNAcentral website features the ability to search and explore different RNA sequences according to source, species and molecular function. Additional expert databases are expected to be included in future versions of the database, which will also include additional data types and information about RNA structure, modifications, molecular interactions and function. Nucleic Acids Research is soon to publish an article with all the details of RNAcentral’s tools and features.

Nicola Hunt

Image taken from Rfam database

Last Changes: 11.07.2014