Jackson Laboratory Associate Professor Jeffrey Chuang, Ph.D., has been awarded a two-year grant totaling $519,750 from the National Human Genome Research Institute for his studies of how RNA (molecules vital to protein formation in cells) interacts with proteins to change how genes are expressed.
"Gene regulation at the RNA level is central to many human diseases," says Chuang, "including cancer, muscular dystrophy, and many of the most common learning disabilities. Advances in understanding the underlying mechanisms of RNA-protein interaction have great value for improving health."
DNA provides the blueprint for building and running a living organism, but some proteins in the cell act like change orders in a construction plan. Binding to DNA molecules, these proteins can change how genes are expressed. While DNA-protein interactions for hundreds of proteins have been cataloged and studied, protein interactions with RNA are less well known.
"Scientific understanding of RNA-level gene regulation is rudimentary, despite the fact that this type of regulation probably influences the function of most genes," Chuang says. "Excitingly, several groups around the world, notably our collaborators in the Brenton Graveley lab at the University of Connecticut, have started to generate new types of experimental data on RNA-protein interactions."
Chuang notes that interpreting these new data poses a major analysis challenge. "We have developed a new mathematical and computational approach to decipher how RNAs interact with proteins from these types of data, which will be critical for understanding the root causes of many diseases."
Chuang joined The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine faculty in June 2012.
The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and the new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs more than 1,500 staff, and its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.
Research reported in this document was supported by the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number 1R21HG007554-01, "Combinatorial RNA Structural Features that Control RNA-Protein Binding." The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.