Where are you from, and what is your role in Extreme 2002?
I am a graduate student from the University of Oregon. I have just completed my first year of graduate school in the Institute of Molecular Biology, and this past spring I joined Andy Berglund’s Lab. My undergraduate studies were done at Northern Illinois University where I earned a B.S. in Biochemistry. My role in Extreme 2002 will be to assist Andy in collecting and doing experiments with the thermophilic Pompeii worms (Alvinella pompejana).
Currently the primary focus of research in the Berglund Lab is the study of pre-mRNA splicing. Messenger RNA (mRNA) serves to carry the information or "message" that is encoded in DNA to the sites of protein synthesis in the cell, where the mRNA code is then translated into a protein. However, before mRNA is sent to be translated, it needs further processing in the nucleus. At this stage, the mRNA is called pre-mRNA. A molecular machine in the nucleus called the spliceosome cuts or splices segments of untranslated RNA out and joins the rest of the RNA back together. Those pieces of RNA that are spliced out are called introns which eventually get degraded. The rest of the RNA, called the exon mRNA, is exported out of the nucleus and is used as the template for protein synthesis.
We are interested in how the spliceosome recognizes the introns. How does
the spliceosome know what RNA to cut out? If the wrong RNA is spliced
out, then incorrect information will be sent and the wrong protein will
be translated. Fifteen percent of diseases are caused by improper splicing.