We’ve come a long way since the unveiling over half a century ago of the concept of a messenger RNA as the go-between for DNA and protein. The exciting emergence of the importance of alternative mRNA processing, regulatory RNAs, RNA-mediated enzymatic mechanisms, etc. are now fully recognized as a means to regulate gene expression in cells. These observations, along with the recognition of the contributions of RNA to disease pathogenesis and normal development, have made the field of RNA biology essential to all life science disciplines.
An understanding of biology and disease cannot be construed from a mere analysis of the sequence of a DNA genome. The large extent of tissue and developmental-specific alternative mRNA splicing is now fully recognized as a major player in creating the diversity of gene expression in the world of biology. Once considered default process, mRNA 3’ end formation/polyadenylation are now recognized as being dynamically controlled over several alternative sites in a developmental, growth and cancer-related fashion.
A significant portion of the changes in gene expression levels can be attributed to regulated mRNA stability rather than transcription. RNA-based machines such as the ribosome are mainstays in cell biology. The appreciation of the role of non-coding RNAs (miRNAs, LncRNAs etc.) in the regulation of gene expression has also arisen and continues expand.
Nobel prizes have been awarded for the discovery of ribozymes, splicing, RNA-directed telomere synthesis, RNA interference, ribosome structure/function, the RNA-directed enzyme CRISPR and the role of RNA modification in regulating innate immunity. Finally, the role mRNA vaccines have played in taming the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the intense interest in RNA-base therapeutic research and development clearly demonstrate the impact RNA biology can have in the biotech and pharmaceutical arena. Cleary RNA’s time in the spotlight in the life sciences has arguably arrived.
In addition to numerous laboratories that study on RNA based pathogens (e.g. viruses), MIP has several labs that focus on key fundamental aspects of RNA biology using molecular, biochemical and computational approaches. These foci, to name a few, include RNA stability, RNA processing, RNA modifications, protein-RNA interactions, RNA-based regulation in bacterial systems, the role of non-coding RNAs in cellular biology, optimization of CRISPR systems, and applications of RNA interference.
Greg Ebel, Sc.D.
Brian Geiss, Ph.D.
Richard Slayden, Ph.D
Carol Wilusz, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Wilusz, Ph.D.
Mark Zabel, Ph.D.