WORCESTER, MA - University of Massachusetts Medical School Professor and Vice Chair of Neurobiology Vivian Budnik, PhD, has received a four-year, $1.3 million EUREKA (Exceptional Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration) grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to explore a novel mechanism of communication between the cytoplasm and the nucleus, called nuclear envelope budding, that may lead to new understandings for various tissue dystrophies and aging disorders.
"This newly discovered mechanism expands our views and opens new questions on how genetic information is integrated with cytoplasmic events," said Dr. Budnik. "The EUREKA grant does more than allow us to learn about and characterize this important process at the very foundation of cellular biology, but is likely to accelerate our understanding of disorders associated with the nuclear envelope such as Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, movement disorders such as dystonia, and Herpes virus-type infections."
The EUREKA grant is part of a program by the National Institutes of Health to fund exceptionally innovative research projects enabling the establishment of novel concepts and approaches to solve important problems or open new areas for investigation.
Budnik, working with colleague Melissa J. Moore, PhD, the Eleanor Eustis Farrington Chair in Cancer Research, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology at UMass Medical School, were the first to observe this unconventional mechanism, which resembles the manner by which Herpes type viruses escape the nucleus during replication. Appearing to bypass conventional mechanisms of nuclear-cytoplasmic communication, nuclear envelope budding provides an avenue through which large ribonucleoprotein particles assembled in the nucleus can be exported to the cytoplasm. Understanding this mechanism can have implications for diseases involving synaptic formation and the nuclear envelope such as muscular dystrophies.
With the EUREKA grant, Budnik will work to answer several important questions about the biology behind nuclear envelope budding such as the exact composition of the nucleoriboprotein granules that use nuclear envelope budding to exit the nucleus, its relation to conventional nuclear export pathways, its evolutionary conservation from insects to humans, and its importance to synaptic assembly in the nervous system.
About the University of Massachusetts Medical School
The University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), one of five campuses of the University system, is comprised of the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Graduate School of Nursing, a thriving research enterprise and an innovative public service initiative, Commonwealth Medicine. Its mission is to advance the health of the people of the Commonwealth through pioneering education, research, public service and health care delivery with its clinical partner, UMass Memorial Health Care. In doing so, it has built a reputation as a world-class research institution and as a leader in primary care education. The Medical School attracts more than $240 million annually in research funding, placing it among the top 50 medical schools in the nation. In 2006, UMMS's Craig C. Mello, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with colleague Andrew Z. Fire, PhD, of Stanford University, for their discoveries related to RNA interference (RNAi). The 2013 opening of the Albert Sherman Center ushered in a new era of biomedical research and education on campus. Designed to maximize collaboration across fields, the Sherman Center is home to scientists pursuing novel research in emerging scientific fields with the goal of translating new discoveries into innovative therapies for human diseases.