The RNAcentral Consortium has launched RNAcentral (http://rnacentral.org) to serve as a unified resource for all types of noncoding RNA data. The site, which aggregates information from a federation of expert databases and provides tools for browsing, contains approximately 8 million sequences.
Since the 1950s, scientists have thought of RNA as an intermediate molecule that provides a link between stable DNA and proteins. However, in recent decades it has become clear that RNA plays a much wider range of roles in living organisms. Researchers have discovered a lot about different types of RNA, but until now these data have not been put in one place.
Before RNAcentral, finding the RNAs encoded by a specific genome required fetching information from several independent resources, for example miRBase for microRNAs and HAVANA for lncRNAs.
“There is plenty of published data on noncoding RNAs, but each subtype is maintained separately,” explains Alex Bateman, head of Protein Sequence Resources at EMBL-EBI. “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 nonstandard gene name. RNAcentral is a big step towards making RNA sequence as easy to access for research as protein sequence.”
RNAcentral 1.0 offers access to data from ten different expert databases and provides stable accession numbers that can be used consistently in the literature, other molecular databases, and search engines, according to Bateman. The website features a faceted search, which lets users explore different RNA sequences according to source, species, and molecular function. Further expert databases are expected to be included in future releases.
“The growth in noncoding RNA sequence and functional information is phenomenal and shows no signs of slowing, and there has never been a greater demand for a universal resource for these data,” said Sam Griffiths-Jones, Ph.D., of the University of Manchester. “The collaboration of RNAcentral consortium members to produce this resource represents an enormous step forward for the RNA field.”
A paper describing RNAcentral tools and features in detail has been accepted for publication in the journal Nucleic Acids Research.