2016 Hellman Fellow
Assistant Professor, Cell Biology and Neuroscience
Project Title: Combinatorial Control of Gene Expression by MiRNAs and RBPs
Gene expression is elaborately controlled at the post-transcriptional level. Molecularly, this control is accomplished through interactions of small RNAs (microRNAs) and RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) with specific sites on messenger RNAs; these associations affect the stability and translation rates of the mRNAs, altering the protein output. As the cell or its environment changes (for example, in cases of differentiation or stress), the interactions between these factors and mRNAs dynamically rearrange to adjust the expression program. Furthermore, binding of microRNAs or RBPs at nearby sites on the same mRNA allows for additive or synergistic interactions between the regulators themselves, imparting a higher order of combinatorial control. In this way, hundreds of microRNAs and RBPs functioning in mammalian cells set up a post-transcriptional regulatory network.
Our research focuses on understanding the overall mapping and principles of the interactions between mRNAs and their controlling factors – microRNAs and RBPs, and the interplay between these factors. To this end, we employ a mixture of tools in molecular biology, bioinformatics and cell biology. These tools include high-throughput, transcriptome-wide techniques to assess the interaction patterns (CLIP-seq and RNA-seq), as well as targeted studies of individual mRNAs using reporter systems.
“I’m honored and thankful to receive the Hellman Fellowship to continue our studies in post-transcriptional gene regulation, and hope to significantly contribute to the advancement of these research areas.”