A Systematic Approach to Finding Unannotated Proteins

A study suggests that there is more to the eukaryotic genome than was previously suspected.

Katarina Zimmer
Katarina Zimmer
Mar 1, 2018

UNEARTHED TREASURE: Confocal microscopy image of a previously unannotated mitochondrial protein, altMiD51 (green), alongside mitochondria (red) ANNIE ROY

EDITOR'S CHOICE IN GENETICS & GENOMICS

THE PAPER
S. Samandi et al., “Deep transcriptome annotation enables the discovery and functional characterization of cryptic small proteins,” eLife, 6:e27860, 2017.

HIDDEN GEMS
For many years, scientists believed that each eukaryotic gene encoded just one protein and its isoforms, and researchers annotated genomes accordingly. But recent research has shown that individual genes can encode multiple different proteins, and that plenty of proteins arise from regions of the genome that are considered noncoding. Xavier Roucou, a biochemist at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, decided to take a systematic approach to annotating these undocumented proteins.  

TREASURE HUNT
To detect regions of the genome that might encode these proteins—so-called “alternative open reading frames” (altORFs)—Roucou and colleagues scanned nine eukaryotic genomes, including the human...

Update (March 5): The original version of this article mentioned scanning genomes for transcription initiation sites; in fact, they were scanned for translation initiation sites. The Scientist regrets the error.