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Double Duty: Early Research Reveals how a Single Drug Delivers Twice the Impact in Fragile X

Monday, June 27, 2022

Like many neurological diseases, there’s a lot we don’t understand about fragile X syndrome. But, after studying the disorder for several years, Lynne Maquat’s lab knew two important things: the enzyme AKT, which plays a key role in cell growth and survival, and the quality control pathway known as NMD (nonsense-mediated mRNA decay), are both in overdrive in fragile X.

In a new study in the journal Molecular Cell, the team reveals how these two major players interact, highlighting a complex molecular dance that could inform the development of future treatments for fragile X syndrome.

Two paths to pursue 

AKT is a hub for cell signaling, helping cells communicate about important processes like cell growth, proliferation and protein production. When cells are stressed – for example, in cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurological disorders, including fragile X – AKT can send too many (or too few) signals or messages as part of a cell survival mechanism.    

NMD is like a molecular guide that helps our cells make smart decisions that (in most cases) improve cellular function and contribute to good health. For example, NMD supports gene expression by flagging and destroying mRNAs (messenger RNAs) that are carrying faulty genetic instructions that could lead to disease. It also helps our cells adjust to changes in development and in their environment, and more rapidly respond to certain stimuli.

Read More: Double Duty: Early Research Reveals how a Single Drug Delivers Twice the Impact in Fragile X

Three Biochemistry and Biophysics Department Students Win Hooker Fellowships

Monday, June 13, 2022

Biochemistry Hooker Award WinnersCongratulations to Justin Galardi, Matt Raymonda, and Griffin Schroeder, who won Elon Hooker Dissertation Fellowships for 2022-2023.

This fellowship was first endowed by the Hooker family in 1947 in memory of Mr. Elon Huntington Hooker, founder of the Hooker Chemical Company and a graduate of the University of Rochester. The fellowship supports graduate students across disciplines in the sciences, and thus is one of the University’s most competitive awards. The fellowship is given to students who display exceptional ability and promise in their dissertation research. Justin works in the Kielkopf lab, and studies the structure and function of early-stage splicing factors, Matt works in the Munger lab and studies metabolic vulnerabilities associated with viral infection, and Griffin is in the Wedekind lab and studies structural bases of translation regulation by riboswitches. These students carry on a long tradition of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics being well-represented among the annual Hooker awardees.

Congratulations to Justin, Matt and Griffin!

Dmitri Ermolenko awarded NIH MIRA Award

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Congratulations to Dmitri Ermolenko on receiving prestigious NIH R35 MIRA (Maximizing Investigators' Research Award) grant. The goal of MIRA is to increase the efficiency of NIGMS funding by providing highly talented and promising investigators with greater stability and flexibility, thereby enhancing scientific productivity and the chances for important breakthroughs. The Ermolenko lab will use MIRA funding to investigate molecular mechanisms of translation by studying structural dynamics of the ribosome, and the role of mRNA secondary structure in translation regulation.

Ermolenko and Mathews groups publish in Nature Communications

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

A new study by the Ermolenko and Mathews groups, which is out in Nature Communications, shows that contrary to prevailing dogma, specific length and structure, rather than high stability, enable regulatory mRNA stem-loops to pause translation. This work was led by a talented BMB PhD student Chen Bao.

Congratulations to Chen and colleagues!

Convince us why your favorite RNA or RNA-binding protein is worthy of our admiration

Friday, January 28, 2022

Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics Seminar Series Participants,

Thank you to those who participated in and/or viewed the UR Center for RNA Biology’s RNA Presentations on Jan 12th and 26th, sponsored by the RNA Society, Lexogen, and the UR Center for RNA Biology. The judging committee was impressed with the quality of the abstracts submitted and the selected presentations given by UR graduate students and research staff with the prompt: “Convince us why your favorite RNA or RNA-binding protein is worthy of our admiration”.

Each of the oral presenters, who were chosen based on their quality of their abstracts, will be receiving a one-year membership to the RNA Society. Three presenters will also receive prize funds of $300 each.

The three presenters to be awarded a one-year membership to the RNA Society and $300 ea., in alphabetical order, are:

Xueyang He (presented Jan 12th ) - Biophysics Grad Student, Boutz Lab, Biochemistry & Biophysics
Modeling the effects of cancer-associated spliceosome mutations and identifying driving intronic features using deep-learning neural networks

Adrián Moisés Molina Vargas (presented Jan 26th) - Genetics Graduate Student, O'Connell Lab (Biochemistry & Biophysics), Biomedical Genetics
From prokaryote immunity to the newest RNA targeting tool. Unveiling the nature and opportunities of the Cas13 CRISPR RNA-nuclease

Li Xie (presented Jan 26th) - Genetics Graduate Student, Pröschel Lab, Biomedical Genetics
Deciphering eIF2B deficiencies in a neurodegenerative disorder

Honorable mention presenter to receive a one-year membership to the RNA Society

Perinthottathil Sreejith, PhD (presented Jan 12th ) - Staff Scientist, Bharadwaj Lab, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, who presented on his previous work as a Postdoc in the Biteau Lab in Biomedical Genetics
Imp interacts with Lin28 to regulate adult stem cell proliferation in the Drosophila intestine

Again, thank you all for contributing to make our contest interesting and exciting.

Liz - On behalf of Lynne Maquat, PhD (Director, UR Center for RNA Biology)

Read More: Convince us why your favorite RNA or RNA-binding protein is worthy of our admiration

Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics Annual Toy Drive

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Cart of toys for donationThe Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics held its annual toy drive this season to collect toys and items for the Golisano Children's Hospital. Dr. Alan Grossfield delivered a cart full of goodies to the Golisano Children's hospital on Thursday, December 16th along with graduate student, Emily Robinson, and staff accountant, Amy Roman. The gifts are given to the children in the hospital during the holiday season. Any remaining gifts are used to support the needs of the children and playrooms throughout the year.

Read the thank you letter.

In the Pocket: RNA Binding Discovery Supports ‘RNA World’ Theory of Early Life on Earth

Friday, January 14, 2022

Benzi Kluger

RNA biologists at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have discovered that RNA, the chemical cousin of DNA, can bind two metabolites (small molecules) at the same time in a single binding pocket, causing those molecules to interact. This discovery, published in Nature Communications this week, could lead to new antibacterial drugs while helping to fill a gap in the controversial “RNA world” theory, which suggests that RNA molecules enabled life to evolve on Earth 3.5 billion years ago.  


Read More: In the Pocket: RNA Binding Discovery Supports ‘RNA World’ Theory of Early Life on Earth