Prof Thomas Preiss PhD
Professor of RNA Biology, Genome Biology Department, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, The Australian National University
Mechanisms and patterns of post-transcriptional gene control
The flow of information from DNA to phenotype requires exquisite regulation of the mRNA intermediary. Accordingly, eukaryotic mRNAs exhibit a multitude of cis-acting regulatory tags, often concentrated within their untranslated regions. These motifs interact with RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) or non-coding RNAs in a dynamic and combinatorial manner to assemble mRNA- and context-specific ribonucleoprotein (mRNP) complexes. mRNP composition in turn influences mRNA function, by directing its localisation, translation and/or turnover. This ‘post-transcriptional’ control level of gene expression has been the subject of my research since the mid nineties. Along the way I contributed to the establishment of the ‘closed-loop’ model of eukaryotic translation initiation, the elucidation of the miRNA mechanism and systems-level descriptions of translation and polyadenylation. Current work in my lab deploys the tools of transcriptomics and proteomics to more fully characterise mRNPs. For instance, we aim to critically assess long-standing models of translation initiation and the novel concept of a cross talk between cellular metabolism and gene regulation through RNA-enzyme interactions. A second focus is on microRNA sequence diversity as well as alternative mRNA 3’ end formation, and their importance to cellular and organismic function. Finally, we are moving into the new area of epitranscriptomics, by investigating the distribution, molecular functions and enzymology of base methylation in mRNA.