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Jackson Lands NHGRI Funds to Study RNA-Protein Interactions

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — Investigators at Jackson Laboratory plan to use a $520,000 award from the National Human Genome Research Institute to study how RNA and proteins interact and impact gene expression, Jackson Lab said today.

It is known that RNA-protein binding controls fundamental processes such as RNA splicing, translation, localization, and stability, and that RNA and protein interactions are involved in a variety of diseases, from cancer to fragile X syndrome. While many studies have focused on DNA-protein interactions, fewer have centered on RNA-protein interactions, and the mechanisms by which RNA-binding proteins act are not well understood.

"Scientific understanding of RNA-level gene regulation is rudimentary, despite the fact that this type of regulation probably influences the function of most genes," Jackson Laboratory investigator Jeffrey Chuang, who is leading the research, said in a statement.

Chuang said his team will collaborate with the University of Connecticut Professor Brenton Graveley's lab, which has begun to generate new data types on RNA-protein interactions.

The partners aim to use novel computational methods to study datasets from the human ENCODE project to determine sequences and structures that are critical for RNA-protein binding. The research team also plans to validate these methods for at least two RNA-binding proteins.

"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 explained.