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May 22, 2013 Press Release Biology Chemistry

Producing protein from circular RNA in E. coli

Circular RNAs can be used to produce limitless amounts of protein in the bacteria E. coli according to new research by a team from the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science.

Circular RNAs were recently shown to be abundant in mice and humans where they influence gene expression.

In a study published today in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the team, led by Dr Hiroshi Abe report that circular RNA strands treated with the E. coli cell-free system can be translated to produce 100 times more protein than their linear counterparts.

“The translation process is a lot more efficient on circular RNAs than on linear templates because the speed of the re-initiation process is greatly increased,” explains Dr. Abe.

This new technique could be used for the synthesis of tandem-repeat peptides such as those found in biologically important proteins such as silk, collagen and epidermal growth factor.


  • Naoko Abe, Michio Hiroshima, Hideto Maruyama, Yuko Nakashima, Yukiko Nakano, Akira Matsuda, Yasushi Sako, Yoshihiro Ito and Hiroshi Abe “Rolling circle amplification in a prokaryotic translation system using small circular RNA”.Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2013


Yoshihiro Ito
Nano Medical Engineering Laboratory
Chief Scientist Laboratories

Jens Wilkinson
RIKEN Global Relations and Research Coordination Office
Tel: +81-(0)48-462-1225 / Fax: +81-(0)48-463-3687
Email: pr@riken.jp

Figure showing translation reactions on linear and circular RNAs

Translation reactions on linear and circular RNAs