Coronavirus information for Feinberg.

Skip to main content

RNA Biology

Research into the functions of RNA in the cell.

Labs in This Area

 Daniel Arango Lab

Investigating the role of post-transcriptional modifications of RNA in the proliferation, differentiation, and survival of cancer cells

Research Description

Translation is the mechanism by which proteins are made from the information stored in the genetic code. This process is achieved with the help of RNA molecules such as ribosomal RNA (rRNA), transfer RNA (tRNA), and messenger RNA (mRNA). While translation is a tightly regulated process, global perturbations in protein synthesis are observed in stress conditions, cancer, and aging, highlighting the regulatory mechanisms of translation as potential targets in cancer and age-related disorders. One poorly characterized layer of translation regulation is the epitranscriptome, defined as the set of more than 140 ribonucleotide modifications that alter the biochemical properties and function of all classes of RNA, including rRNA, tRNA, and mRNA. While the distribution and function for most ribonucleotide modifications are undefined, the enzymes responsible for depositing RNA modifications are dynamic and sensitive to metabolic alterations, potentially regulating the temporal response to stress or the onset of human diseases such as cancer.

Our group investigates the mechanisms by which RNA modifications regulate protein synthesis and how these mechanisms affect cell fate decisions such as cell proliferation, survival, and differentiation in cancer and stress conditions. By integrating RNA biology, transcriptomics, and cell biology, we aim to uncover novel mechanisms of gene expression regulation and generate new tools that can be harnessed to develop anti-cancer therapies.

For more information, see Dr. Arango's faculty profile and laboratory website.

Current Projects

  • Mechanisms and regulation of RNA acetylation in cancer cells
  • Regulation of stress response by RNA modifications
  • Targeting RNA-modifying enzymes and RNA modifications for therapeutic purposes

Publications

See Dr. Arango's publications.

Contact

Contact Dr. Arango at 312-503-0732.

 Hossein Ardehali Lab

Role of mitochondria and metabolic processes in cancer growth, cardiac disease and immunological processes

 

Research Description

Our lab focuses on three major areas of research:

Role of hexokinase enzymes in immune function, cancer growth and stem cell differentiation

Hexokinase (HK) enzymes phosphorylate glucose to trap it inside the cell. There are 5 mammalian HKs (named HK1-5), with two of them having a hydrophobic region at their N-terminus that allows them to bind to the mitochondria. We have made mouse models and developed in vitro systems to allow us to study the role of mitochondrial binding of HKs in glucose metabolism. We have determined that HK1 binding to the mitochondria determines whether glucose is used for anabolic processes (ie, pentose-phosphate pathway) or catabolism (ie, glycolysis). Thus, the non-enzymatic function of this protein and its subcellular location determines the fate of glucose. We are now studying this process in T-cells, vascular cells and cancer cells. We are also in the process of generating several mouse models of hexokinase enzymes, including HK2 without the mitochondrial binding domain and HK3 knockout mice. We will study these models in different disease and physiological conditions.

Characterization of cellular and mitochondrial iron regulation

Our lab has identified a novel mitochondrial protein, ATP-Binding Cassette-B8 (ABCB8), which plays a role in mitochondrial iron homeostasis and mitochondrial iron export. Mice with ABCB8 knocked out in the heart develop cardiomyopathy and mitochondrial iron accumulation. In addition, we have shown that a pathway involving mTOR and tristetraprolin, treatment with doxorubicin (an anticancer drug that also causes cardiomyopathy) and SIRT2 protein also impact cellular and/or mitochondrial iron regulation. Current studies in this area include: 1) further characterization of ABCB8 in iron homeostasis in other organs and disorders, 2) characterization of the mechanism for iron regulation by SIRT2, 3) identification of the mechanism by which mTOR is regulated by iron through epigenetic changes, 4) role of iron in viral infection, particularly HIV, 5) characterization of the effects of iron on mitochondrial dynamics and 6) identification of novel mitochondrial-specific iron chelators.

Role of mRNA-binding proteins in cellular and systemic metabolism

TTP is a protein that binds to AU-rich regions in the 3’ UTR of mRNA molecules and causes their degradation. It has been studied extensively in the field of inflammation. We recently showed that it also plays a role in cellular iron conservation. We have also shown that TTP is a key mediator of cellular metabolic processes. Our studies have demonstrated that TTP regulates glucose, fatty acid and branched-chain amino acid metabolism in the liver and muscle tissue. We also have evidence that TTP directly regulates mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC) by targeting specific proteins in the ETC complexes. Finally, recent studies demonstrated that TTP also regulates systemic metabolism by targeting FGF-21 expression. We have both TTP Floxed mice (for the generation of tissue specific TTP knockout mice) and TTP knockout mice in the background of TNF-alpha receptor 1/2 knockout mice (to reduce the inflammatory burden).  Current studies include: 1) role of TTP in liver metabolism of fatty acids and glucose, 2) effects of TTP on mitochondrial proteins, 3) mechanism of TTP regulation of branched-chain amino acid levels and 4) role of TTP in cardiac metabolism.

For more information, see Dr. Ardehali's faculty profile.

Publications

See Dr. Ardehali's publications in PubMed.

Contact

Dr. Ardehali

 Rajeshwar Awatramani Lab

Investigating dopamine neurogenesis and subtypes; studying the role of microRNAs in Schwann cell (SC) differentiation.

Research Description

Topic 1. Mechanisms underlying dopamine neurogenesis
The floor plate, the ventral organizing center in the embryonic neural tube, patterns the neural tube by secreting the potent morphogen Shh. Using genetic fate mapping, we have recently shown that the midbrain floor plate, unlike the hindbrain and spinal cord floor plate, is neurogenic and is the source of midbrain dopamine neurons (Joksimovic, et al, 2009 Nature Neuroscience, Joksimovic et al. 2009 PNAS). We are interested in understanding pathways that are involved in floor plate neurogenesis and production of dopamine neurons. We have shown that Wnt signaling is critical for the establishment of the dopamine progenitor pool and that miRNAs may modulate the dosage and timing of the Wnt pathway (Anderegg et al, PloS Genetics 2013).

Topic 2. Deconstructing Dopaminergic Diversity
The neurotransmitter dopamine, produced mainly by midbrain dopaminergic neurons, influences a spectrum of behaviors including motor, learning, reward, motivation and cognition. In accordance with its diverse functions, dopaminergic dysfunction is implicated in a range of disorders affecting millions of people, including Parkinson’s disease (PD), schizophrenia, addiction and depression. How a small group of neurons underpins a gamut of key behaviors and diseases remains enigmatic. We postulated that there must exist several molecularly distinct dopaminergic neuron populations that, in part, can account for the plethora of dopaminergic functions and disorders. We are currently working to test this hypothesis and define dopamine neuron subtypes.

Topic 3. MicroRNAs in Schwann cell (SC) differentiation
MicroRNAs, by modulating gene expression, have been implicated as regulators of various cellular and physiological processes including differentiation, proliferation and cancer. We have studied the role of microRNAs in Schwann cell (SC) differentiation by conditional removal of the microRNA processing enzyme, Dicer1 (Yun et al, 2010, J Neurosci) . We reveal that mice lacking Dicer1 in SC (Dicer1 cKO) display a severe neurological phenotype resembling congenital hypomyelination. SC lacking Dicer1 are stalled in differentiation at the promyelinating state and fail to myelinate axons. We are beginning to determine the molecular basis of this phenotype. Understanding this will be important not only for congenital hypomyelination, but also for peripheral nerve regeneration and SC cancers.

For more information, please see Dr. Awatramani's faculty profile.

Publications

View Dr. Awatramani's complete list of publications in PubMed.

Contact Us

Rajeshwar Awatramani, PhD at 312-503-0690

 

 Shi-Yuan Cheng Lab

Cancer stem cell biology, cellular signaling and therapy responses in human brain tumors, in particular, glioblastoma (GBM)

Research Description

      Integrated genomic analysis by TCGA revealed tat GBMs can be classified into four clinically relevant subtypes, proneural (PN), neural, mesenchymal (Mes) and classical GBMs with each characterized by distinct gene expression signatures and genetic alterations. We reported that PN and Mes glioma stem cells (GSCs) subtypes also have distinct dysregulated signaling pathways. Our current research focuses on novel mechanisms/cellular signaling of GSC biology, tumorigenesis, progression, invasion/metastasis, angiogenesis and therapy responses of GSCs and GBMs.

1. MicroRNAs (miRs) and non-coding RNAs in GSCs and GBMs – miRs and other small non-coding RNAs act as transcription repressors or inducers of gene expression or functional modulators in all multicellular organisms.  Dysregulated miRs/noncoding RNAs plays critical roles in cancer initiation, progression and responses to therapy. We study the mechanisms by which deregulated expression of miRs influence GBM malignant phenotypes through interaction with signaling pathways, that in turn, influence proneural (PN)- and mesenchymal (Mes)-associated gene expression in GSCs and GBM phenotypes. We study the molecular consequences and explore clinical applications of modulating miRs and signaling pathways in GBMs.  We are establishing profiles of non-coding RNAs in these GSCs and study mechanisms and biological influences of these non-coding RNAs in regulating GSC biology and GBM phenotypes. In addition, we explore novel therapeutic approaches of delivery of tumor suppressive miRs into GSC brain xenografts in animals.

2.  Autophagy in GBMs. (Macro)autophagy is an evolutionally conserved dynamic process whereby cells catabolize damaged proteins and organelles in a lysosome-dependent manner. Autophagy principally serves as an adaptive role to protect cells and tissues, including those associated with cancer. Autophagy in response to multiple stresses including therapeutic treatments such as radiation and chemotherapies provides a mechanism for tumor cell to survive and acquire resistance to therapies. Tumors can use autophagy to support and sustain their proliferation, survival, metabolism, invasiveness, metastasis and resistance to therapy. We study mechanisms by which phosphorylation, acetylation and ubiquitination of autophagy proteins regulate GSC and GBM phenotypes and autophagic response, which, in turn contributes to tumor cell survival, growth and resistance to therapy. We investigate whether disruption of these post-translational processes on autophagy proteins inhibits autophagy and enhances the efficacy of combination therapies for GBMs. We examine whether cross-talks between miRs, autophagy and oncogenic signaling pathways regulate GSC stemness and phenotypes.

3. Heterogeneity, epigenetic regulation, DNA damage and metabolic pathways in GSCs and GBMs. Intratumoral heterogeneity is a characteristic of GBMs and most of cancers. Phenotypic and functional heterogeneity arise among GBM cells within the same tumor as a consequence of genetic change, environmental differences and reversible changes in cell properties. Subtype mosaicism within the same tumor and spontaneous conversion of human PN to Mes tumors have been observed in clinical GBMs. We explore an emerging epigenetic marker with distinct functions such as DNA methylation together with genetic mapping of these markers to assess their contributions to GBM heterogeneity. In addition, compared with PN GSCs, DNA damage and glycolytic pathways are aberrant active in Mes GSCs. We investigate the mechanisms by which these pathways regulate GSC and GBM phenotypes and responses to therapies.

4. Oncogenic receptor tyrosine kinase (RTKs) signaling, small Rho GTPase regulators in GBM and GSCs: Small Rho GTPases such as Rac1 and Cdc42 modulate cancer cell migration, invasion, growth and survival. Recently, we described mechanisms by which EGFR and its mutant EGFRvIII and PDGFR alpha promote glioma growth and invasion by distinct mechanisms involving phosphorylation of Dock180, a Rac-specific guanidine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) and DCBLD2, an orphan membrane receptor. We are currently investigating involvement of other modulators/GEFs and other Rho GTPases in modulating GSC and GBM phenotypes and responses to therapy.

For more information, please see Dr. Cheng's faculty profile and lab website.

Publications

View Dr. Cheng's complete list of publications in PubMed.

Contact Us

Shi-Yuan Cheng, PhD at 312-503-5314

Visit us on campus in the Lurie Building, Room 6-119, 303 E Superior Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611.

 

 Eva Gottwein Lab

Molecular biology of Kaposi's Sarcoma-associated herpesvirus and its associated cancers

Scout Osborne <scout.osborne@northwestern.edu>

Research Description

Viruses commonly modify their cellular environment to optimize viral replication and persistence. Much has been learned about the intervention of viral proteins with cellular pathways. More recently, it has become clear that herpesviruses also encode large numbers of microRNAs (miRNAs). The modest amount of space miRNA precursors occupy in the viral genome, their lack of immunogenicity and their potential as regulators of gene expression make miRNAs ideal candidates for viral effectors.

The lab’s research focuses on identifying targets and functions of miRNAs encoded by the human herpesvirus Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). KSHV causes cancer in immuno-compromised individuals. The clinically most relevant KSHV-induced disease is Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), a complex tumor driven by KSHV-infected endothelial cells. Due to the AIDS epidemic, KS has become the most common cancer in parts of Africa. KSHV also infects B lymphocytes and can consequently cause B cell lymphomas, including primary effusion lymphoma (PEL). KSHV constitutively expresses viral miRNAs from 12 precursors, suggesting a role of these miRNAs in viral replication and pathogenesis.

My lab is currently pursuing the comprehensive identification of mRNA targets of these miRNAs in primary effusion lymphoma cell lines and KSHV-infected endothelial cells. Our data suggest that, together, the KSHV miRNAs directly target hundreds of cellular mRNAs encoding proteins with roles in several different biological pathways. Our goal is to use this knowledge to characterize the most important functions of the KSHV miRNAs.

For lab information and more, see Dr. Gottwein's faculty profile and lab website.

Publications

See Dr. Gottwein's publications on PubMed.

Contact

Contact Dr. Gottwein at 312-503-3075 or the lab at 312-503-3076.

Lab Staff

Postdoctoral Fellows

Mark Manzano, Kylee Morrison

Graduate Students

Neil Kuehnle

Technical Staff

Kevin Chung, Haocong Ma, Scout Osborne, Ajinkya Patil

 Thomas Hope Lab

Studying the posttranscriptional regulation of intronless viral messages

Research Description

We study the posttranscriptional regulation of intronless viral messages. Intronless messages must be efficiently processed in the absence of splicing. Therefore, intronless messages must uncouple RNA processing and export from the splicing process making a simpler model system. We are currently focused on the posttranscriptional regulatory element (PRE) of the Hepadnaviruses, including hepatitis B virus (HBV) and woodchuck hepatitis virus (WPRE). Our goal is to understand the novel mechanism of the stimulation of heterologous gene expression by the WPRE. Understanding WPRE function will allow the development of even more efficient gene expression for a variety of applications from gene therapy to large scale protein production.

Although much is known about the molecular biology of HIV, little is known about the details of interactions between the virus and cellular components such as the cytoskeleton. To gain insights into these processes we are combining the disciplines of virology and cell biology to develop the field of cellular virology. We are especially excited by new methods we have developed – such as time-lapse analysis and fluorescent tagging – that allow for HIV to be visualized in living cells.

For lab information and more, see Dr. Hope's faculty profile and lab website.

Publications

See Dr. Hope's publications on PubMed.

Contact

Contact Dr. Hope at 312-503-1360.

Lab Staff

Research Faculty

Ann Carias, Gianguido Cianci, Katarina Kotnik Halavaty, Joao Mamede, Danijela Maric

Postdoctoral Fellows

Muhammad Shoaib Arif, Koree Wee Ahn, Yanille Scott, Tahmina Sultana, Roslyn Taylor, Yanique Thomas

Lab Manager

Michael McRaven

Graduate Student

Faisal Nuhu

Technical Staff

Edward Allen, Meegan Anderson, Lisette Corbin, Flora Engelmann, Joseph Griffin, Megan Halkett, Jared Schooley, Divya Thakkar, Sixia Xiao

Program Staff

Debra Walker

Temporary Staff

Bryan Luna, Ewa Tfaily

 Sui Huang Lab

Seeking to understand the nature and function of a unique nuclear structure, the perinucleolar compartment (PNC), and its relationship with the malignant phenotype

Research Description

Our studies seek to understand the nature and function of a unique nuclear structure, the perinucleolar compartment (PNC), and its relationship with the malignant phenotype. Our work looks to address the function of the PNC and its significance during malignant transformation in multiple ways.

  • Determine the correlation between PNCs and cancer in tissues. In collaboration with Dr. Ann Thor at Evanston Hospital, Northwestern University, we have initiated detection of PNC in breast cancer tissues.
  • Investigate the function of the PNC, its relationship with the nucleolus and rRNA synthesis. We are in the process of isolating and identifying additional proteins and RNAs in the PNC.

Identification of activities taking place in the PNC will shed light on the understanding of the function of this structure and its relationship to the nucleolus and the transformed phenotype.

For lab information and more, see Dr. Huang's faculty profile.

Publications

See Dr. Huang's publications on PubMed.

Contact

Contact Dr. Huang at 312-503-4269 or the lab at 312-503-4276.

Lab Staff

Temporary Staff

Chen Wang

Visiting Scholar

Nobuhide Ueki

 Shannon Lauberth Lab

Decoding the Cancer Epigenome

Research Description

The Lauberth Lab is located in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and is located in the Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center on Northwestern’s campus in downtown Chicago.

Our primary research focus is to make advances in basic and translational studies in the cancer epigenetics field. The laboratory utilizes a combination of approaches that include cutting-edge high-throughput NGS technologies, state of the art microscopy techniques, quantitative proteomics, biochemistry, and cell-based/genetic assays. We also employ powerful cell-free assays that fully reconstitute transcription on chromatin templates and are powerful in discerning direct (causal) effects of epigenetic and transcriptional regulatory mechanisms.

Current Projects

The general transcription machinery functions as signal transducers

Through an exciting collaboration with Nullin Divecha’s group (University of Southampton), we discovered a new role of the basal transcription TFIID complex component, TAF3 in transducing nuclear phosphoinositide signals into gene expression changes that are required to build muscle tissue. This work was published in Molecular Cell.

p53 mutant enhancer selection and regulation imparts transcriptional plasticity to cancer cells in response to chronic immune signaling

My lab has made important contributions in revealing mechanistic insights into how chronic immune signaling drives alterations in the cancer cell transcriptome. We have demonstrated a functional crosstalk between the second most frequently identified p53 mutant and the master proinflammatory regulator NFkB that shapes an active enhancer landscape to reprogram the cancer cell transcriptome in response to chronic TNFa signaling. These studies also revealed insights into mutant p53-dependent gene regulation by describing new ways in which mutant p53 is recruited to specific classes of enhancers through various binding partners since mutant p53 does not directly engage with DNA. This new mechanism underlying the tumor-promoting roles of mutant p53 was published in Nature Communications.

Mutant p53 Co-Opts Chromatin Pathways at Enhancers to Drive Cancer Cell Growth

Our studies have advanced our understanding of cancer epigenetics by establishing an interplay between p53 mutants and chromatin regulators that leads to aberrant enhancer and gene activation in human cancer. Specifically, through global analyses, we demonstrated a requirement for mutant p53 in regulating the prominent histone mark, monomethylation of histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4me1) that demarcates enhancer regions. This is an important finding that provides new mechanistic insights into how H3K4me1 levels are altered, which is a frequent event in various human cancers. Also, by implementing cell-based and our unique cell-free assays, we revealed mechanistic insights into the cooperativity between epigenetic regulators, MLL4 and the histone acetyltransferase p300 in promoting joint epigenetic aberrations that support enhanced transcriptional activation by mutant p53. These important findings were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

eRNAs regulate the expression of tumor promoting genes

Our recent research efforts have resulted in new insights into the functions of eRNAs, which is particularly significant since these findings are among the few studies to date that have identified roles for these noncoding transcripts. Through global profiling analyses, we identified eRNAs that are synthesized by various p53 mutants, and by depleting several of these eRNAs, we identified their direct roles in the regulation of tumor promoting gene expression. We also revealed that these eRNAs function through the chromatin recognition bromodomains (BDs) of the extra-terminal motif (BET) family member BRD4. We further characterized a mechanism in which eRNAs are required to increase BRD4 binding to acetylated histones and promote enhanced BRD4 and RNAPII recruitment at specific enhancers that, in turn augments enhancer and tumor promoting gene activation. We also extended the implications of our findings by revealing that the BDs of all BET family members and several non-BET family members also directly interact with eRNAs. These findings provide a previously unrecognized convergence between eRNAs and histone posttranslational modifications in regulating the binding of chromatin reader proteins and highlight a mechanism in which eRNAs play a direct role in gene regulation by modulating chromatin interactions and transcription functions of BRD4. A manuscript describing these findings has been published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology (NSMB).

We have also published several reviews on enhancer regulation and function and the mechanisms underlying eRNA functions that you can find by viewing our publications.

For more information, please see Dr. Lauberth's faculty profile and laboratory website.

Select Publications

Ohguchi H, Park PMC, Wang T, Gryder BE, Ogiya D, Kurata K, Zhang X, Li D, Pei C, Masuda T, Johansson C, Wimalasena VK, Kim Y, Hino S, Usuki S, Kawano Y, Samur MK, Tai YT, Munshi NC, Matsuoka M, Ohtsuki S, Nakao M, Minami T, Lauberth S, Khan J, Oppermann U, Durbin AD, Anderson KC, Hideshima T, Qi J. Lysine Demethylase 5A is Required for MYC Driven Transcription in Multiple Myeloma. Blood Cancer Discov. 2021 Jul;2(4):370-387. doi: 10.1158/2643-3230.BCD-20-0108. Epub 2021 Apr 10. PMID: 34258103; PMCID: PMC8265280.

Sartorelli, V., Lauberth, S.M. Enhancer RNAs are an important regulatory layer of the epigenome. Nat Struct Mol Biol 27, 521–528 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41594-020-0446-0

Rahnamoun H, Orozco P, Lauberth SM. The role of enhancer RNAs in epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Transcription. 2020 Feb;11(1):19-25. doi: 10.1080/21541264.2019.1698934. Epub 2019 Dec 11. PMID: 31823686; PMCID: PMC7053929.

Rahnamoun, H., Lee, J., Sun, Z. et al. RNAs interact with BRD4 to promote enhanced chromatin engagement and transcription activation. Nat Struct Mol Biol 25, 687–697 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41594-018-0102-0

Rahnamoun H, Hong J, Sun Z, Lee J, Lu H, Lauberth SM. Mutant p53 regulates enhancer-associated H3K4 monomethylation through interactions with the methyltransferase MLL4. J Biol Chem. 2018 Aug 24;293(34):13234-13246. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.003387. Epub 2018 Jun 28. PMID: 29954944; PMCID: PMC6109924.

Rahnamoun, H., Lu, H., Duttke, S.H. et al. Mutant p53 shapes the enhancer landscape of cancer cells in response to chronic immune signaling. Nat Commun 8, 754 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-01117-y

Stijf-Bultsma Y, Sommer L, Tauber M, Baalbaki M, Giardoglou P, Jones DR, Gelato KA, van Pelt J, Shah Z, Rahnamoun H, Toma C, Anderson KE, Hawkins P, Lauberth SM, Haramis AP, Hart D, Fischle W, Divecha N. The basal transcription complex component TAF3 transduces changes in nuclear phosphoinositides into transcriptional output. Mol Cell. 2015 May 7;58(3):453-67. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2015.03.009. Epub 2015 Apr 9. PMID: 25866244; PMCID: PMC4429956.

Lauberth SM, Nakayama T, Wu X, Ferris AL, Tang Z, Hughes SH, Roeder RG. H3K4me3 interactions with TAF3 regulate preinitiation complex assembly and selective gene activation. Cell. 2013 Feb 28;152(5):1021-36. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.01.052. PMID: 23452851; PMCID: PMC3588593.

Lauberth SM, Bilyeu AC, Firulli BA, Kroll KL, Rauchman M. A phosphomimetic mutation in the Sall1 repression motif disrupts recruitment of the nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase complex and repression of Gbx2. J Biol Chem. 2007 Nov 30;282(48):34858-68. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M703702200. Epub 2007 Sep 25. PMID: 17895244.

Lauberth SM, Rauchman M. A conserved 12-amino acid motif in Sall1 recruits the nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase corepressor complex. J Biol Chem. 2006 Aug 18;281(33):23922-31. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M513461200. Epub 2006 May 17. PMID: 16707490.

View all of Dr. Lauberth's publications on PubMed.

Contact

Contact Dr. Lauberth at 312-503-4780.

Lab Contact Information

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Simpson Querrey 7-400B
303 E. Superior Street
Chicago, IL 60611

Lab Staff

Gabriel Lopez
Research Technologist

Jessica Xu
Graduate Researcher

Anita Wang
Lab Coordinator

Nicholas Chin
Temporary Staff

Dylan Jann Pedersen
Temporary Staff

 Jennie Lin Lab

The Lin lab studies the functional significance of human-based genomic and transcriptomic discoveries in cardiometabolic and kidney diseases.

Research Description

Elucidating How Genotype Lease to Phenotype in Cardiometabolic and Renal Disease

Unbiased human-based discovery efforts, such as genome-wide and exome-wide association studies, have identified many genetic loci for complex, disease-relevant traits. These genetics studies have provided invaluable data implicating novel loci in disease development and progression, but require functional follow-up to elucidate the mechanistic underpinnings driving the associated findings. A focus of the lab is to interrogate, through experimental wet-bench approaches, the functional significance of novel loci for blood lipids levels and measurements of renal function in the hopes of gaining new insights into pathways relevant to cardiometabolic and renal disease, respectively.

In particular, we are studying the role of A1CF, a gene encoding the RNA-binding protein APOBEC1 complementation factor and recently implicated as a locus for (1) elevated plasma triglycerides (Liu et al., Nature Genetics 2017), (2) estimated glomerular filtration fraction in non-diabetic individuals (Pattaro et al., Nature Communications 2016) and (3) serum urate (Kottgen et al., Nature Genetics 2013). We have already discovered that A1CF's actions extend beyond its canonical role of facilitating the editing of APOB mRNA, and we are currently integrating studies using animal and human cellular models to investigate how A1CF contributes to these associated traits.

Using iPSC and Genome Editing Technologies to Study Human Diseases

Although rodent models have contributed greatly to our understanding of human diseases, the genomic and physiologic differences between rodent and human have presented challenges in translating bench-based findings into clinic. To circumvent this roadblock, our lab is using iPSC-derived organoid models to study the effects of DNA variants within the native human genomic context. Using CRISPR-based technology to introduce or correct mutations in human iPSCs, we are modeling the effects of disease-associated mutations on cellular phenotype.

RNA-centric Approach to Studying Kidney Disease

Building upon A1CF-related work and previous experience with long non-coding RNA, we are studying the role of transcriptome-level regulation in the context of kidney disease. We have discovered that A1CF is a novel regulator of alternative splicing in both the liver and kidney, and we are currently working on how A1CF's regulation of splicing may influence intracellular metabolism. We are also studying how human-specific long non-coding RNAs influence gene expression and cellular phenotypes.

For more information, visit the Faculty Profile of Jennie Lin or visit the Lin Lab Website

Publications

See Dr. Lin's publications in PubMed.

Contact

Email Dr. Lin

Phone 312-503-1892

 Hank Seifert Lab

Bacterial pathogenesis, DNA recombination mechanisms, epithelial cell adherence

Research Description

Our laboratory studies the pathogenesis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the causative agent of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. This gram-negative bacterium is an obligate human pathogen that has existed within human populations throughout recorded history. We are using a variety of molecular biological, genetic, cell biological and biochemical techniques to investigate the molecular mechanisms controlling gonococcal infection, define mechanisms and pathways of DNA recombination, replication and repair in this human specific pathogen, study the interactions between gonococci and human cells, tissues and the innate immune system and determine how the pilus functions to help mediate genetic transfer and pathogenesis. Our goal is to discover new mechanisms important for the continued existence of this microbe in the human population to further our understanding of how infectious agents have evolved to specifically infect humans.

For lab information and more, see Dr. Seifert's faculty profile.

Publications

See Dr. Seifert's publications on PubMed.

Contact

Contact Dr. Seifert at 312-503-9788 or the lab at 312-503-9786.

Lab Staff

Research Faculty

Elizabeth Stohl 

Postdoctoral Fellows

Linda I-Lin Hu, Jayaram Narayana, Ella Rotman

Graduate Students

Wendy Geslewitz

Technical Staff

Hannah Landstrom, Brian Sands, Shaohui Yin 

 Ali Shilatifard Lab

Studying molecular machinery for histone modifications in yeast, Drosophila and human cells

Research Description

Chromosomal rearrangements resulting in alterations of gene expression are a major cause of hematological malignancies. Our goal is to advance the understanding of the biochemical and molecular mechanisms of rearrangement-based leukemia and to provide insights into how translocations affect cellular division by altering gene expression. Using mammalian model systems such as tissue culture and mouse genetics, we plan to explore the regulation of gene expression via the MLL gene and its translocation partners found in human leukemia. We are currently defining the molecular composition of the MLL complexes and how translocations alter its biochemical function and integrity, resulting in leukemic pathogenesis. We are also planning to define the mechanism of the targeting of the MLL complex and its histone methyltransferase activity to chromatin to determine its normal cellular functions and its mistargeting and dysregulation in leukemogenesis.

One fusion partner of MLL in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is the ELL protein. We show that human ELL functions as a transcription elongation factor. We have identified the Drosophila homolog of ELL and demonstrate it to be essential for development.  Drosophila ELL associates with elongating RNA polymerase II in vivo on chromosomes and is a regulator of the Notch signaling pathway.  This has suggested to us that human ELL might also participate in the same process.

For lab information and more, see Dr. Shilatifard's faculty profile or visit the Shilatifard Laboratory site.

Publications

View Dr. Shilatifard's publications on PubMed.

Contact

Email Dr. Shilatifard

Phone 312-503-5223

 Derek Walsh Lab

Mechanisms of poxvirus and herpesvirus infection; translational control of gene expression; virus trafficking

Research Description

Research in our laboratory focuses on two aspects of DNA virus biology:

1) The role of the host translation system during infection by poxviruses. Members of the poxvirus family include Variola Virus (VarV), the causative agent of smallpox, and Vaccinia Virus (VacV), a close relative that was used as a vaccine against smallpox and which has become the laboratory prototype for poxvirus research. These large double-stranded DNA viruses exhibit an impressive level of self-sufficiency and encode many of the proteins required for transcription and replication of their DNA genomes. Indeed, unlike many other DNA viruses, poxviruses do not require access to the host nucleus and replicate exclusively in the cytoplasm of infected cells within compartments termed “viral factories”. However, like all viruses, they remain dependent on gaining access to host ribosomes in order to translate their mRNAs into proteins and must also counteract host antiviral responses aimed at crippling the translation system to prevent virus replication.

Our work focuses on the function of two eukaryotic translation initiation factor (eIF) complexes, eIF3 and eIF4F, that regulate ribosome recruitment to capped mRNAs and their role in VacV infection. We have found that VacV stimulates the assembly of eIF4F complexes and that this is important for both viral protein synthesis and control of host immune responses. Furthermore, we have found that eIF3 functionally communicates with eIF4F during translation initiation and that this plays an important role in VacV replication. We have also found that VacV redistributes key eIF4F subunits to specific regions within viral factories, a process that appears to involve the viral I3 protein.

We are currently exploring the compartmentalized replication of VacV as a means to better understand fundamental mechanisms of localized translational control and how this functions to regulate viral protein synthesis and host antiviral responses. We are also studying how the virus controls eIF4F activity by targeting upstream signaling pathways, with a particular emphasis on the metabolic sensor mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR).

2) Microtubule regulation and function during herpes simplex virus infection. We are also interested in how herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) exploits host signaling pathways and specialized microtubule regulatory proteins, called +TIPs, to facilitate virus movement within the cell at various stages of the viral lifecycle.

For lab information and more, see Dr. Walsh's faculty profile and the lab website.

Publications

See publications on PubMed.

Contact

Contact Dr. Walsh at 312-503-4292

Lab Staff

Postdoctoral Fellows

Charles Hesser, Nathan Meade, Chorong Park

Graduate Students

Colleen Furey, Madeline Rollins

Technical Staff

Helen Astar

 Jane Wu Lab

The Wu Laboratory seeks to understand molecular mechanisms regulating gene expression and their involvement in the pathogenesis of age-related diseases, including neurodegeneration and tumor metastasis.

Research Description

RNA Processing and Neurodegeneration

Accumulating evidence supports that aberrant RNA processing represents a general pathogenic mechanism for neurodegeneration, including dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). A number of RNA binding proteins (RBPs) have been associated with neurodegenerative diseases, especially various proteinopathies. Recent studies have defined TDP-43 and FUS proteinopathies, a group of heterogeneous neurodegenerative disorders overlapping with dementia, including frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and ALS. Several important questions drive our research: what is physiological function of these RBPs? What are the fundamental mechanisms by which genetic mutations in or aberrant regulation of these RBPs cause neural damage? What are the earliest detectable molecular and cellular events that reflect the neural damage in these devastating neurological diseases? How to reverse/repair the neural damage and slow down the progression of these devastating diseases.

To address these questions, we have established cellular and animal models for both TDP-43 and FUS proteinopathies (Li et al, 2010;Barmada et al, 2010; Chen et al, 2011; Fushimi et al, 2011). Using combined biochemical, biophysical, molecular biology and cell biology approaches, we have begun to examine the molecular pathogenic mechanisms underlying neurotoxicity induced by TDP-43 and FUS. Our recent work using atomic force microscopy (AFM), electron microscopy (EM) and (NMR) approaches has shown the biochemical, biophysical and structural similarities between TDP-43 and classical amyloid proteins (Guo et al, 2011; Xu et al, 2013; Bigio et al, 2013). Our study has defined a minimal amyloidogenic region at the carboxyl terminal domain of TDP-43 that is sufficient for amyloid fibril formation and neurotoxicity (Guo et al, 2011; Zhu et al, unpublished). Using cellular and animal models for FUS proteinopathy, we have begun to identify the earliest detectable cellular damage caused by mutations in and overexpression of the human FUS gene. Our data have provided new insights into pathogenic mechanisms underlying these proteinopathies and suggested candidate targets for developing therapeutic approaches.

A critical step in mammalian gene expression is the removal of introns by the process of pre-mRNA splicing. Alternative pre-mRNA splicing, the process of generating multiple mRNA transcripts from a single genetic locus by alternative selection of distinct splice sites, is one of most powerful mechanisms for genetic diversity and an excellent means for fine-tuning gene activity. Many genes critical for neuronal survival and function undergo extensive alternative splicing. Splicing defects play important roles in neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia and motor neuron diseases. For example, splicing mutations in the human tau gene and imbalance of tau splicing isoforms lead to frontotemporal lobar degeneration with tau-positive pathology (FTLD-tau). To understand mechanisms underlying FTLD-tau, we have set up a model system and developed a number of biochemical, molecular and cell biological assays to study alternative splicing of the human tau gene. Our work has led to the identification of a number of cis-elements and trans-acting RBPs controlling tau alternative splicing (Kar et al, 2006; Wu et al, 2006; Kar et al, 2011; Ray et al, 2011). Our experiments have begun to reveal previously unknown players in FTLD-tau and provided new candidate target genes for developing therapeutic strategy (Donahue et al, 2006; unpublished).

Molecular Mechanisms Regulating Axon Guidance, Cell Migration & Tumor Metastasis

Another line of our research focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating cell migration and cancer metastasis. Previous studies from our group and others led to the discovery of Slit as a prototype of neuronal guidance cue. Our studies have shown that Slit interacts with Roundabout (Robo) and acts as a chemorepellent for axons and migrating neurons (Wu et al, 1999; Li et al, 1999;Yuasa-Kawada et al, 2009). Our work has demonstrated that Slit-Robo signaling modulates chemokines and inhibits migration of different types of cells, including cancer cells. The observation that Slit is frequently inactivated in a range of tumors suggests an important role of Slit in tumor suppression. We have established several assays and shown that Slit inhibits invasion and migration of cancer cells, including breast cancer, glioma and prostate cancer. We are using combined molecular and cell biology approaches to dissecting Slit-Robo signaling in neuronal guidance and tumor suppression. Our research has provided new insights into signal transduction pathways mediating Slit function. Enhancing or activating the endogenous mechanisms that restrict or suppress cancer invasion/metastasis will likely provide novel approaches to cancer metastasis. 

For more information please view the faculty profile of Jane Wu, MD, PhD or visit the Wu Lab website.

Recent Publications

View a full list of publications by Jane Wu at PubMed

Contact Us

Jane Wu, MD, PhD, at 312-503-0684

 

 Rui Yi Lab

Investigate mechanisms of skin development, stem cells, aging and cancer at the single-cell level

Research Description

Mammalian skin and its appendages function as the outermost barrier of the body to protect inner organs from environmental hazards and keep essential fluid within. Our research program studies mechanisms that govern cell fate specification, stem cell maintenance and aging as well as initiation and progression of cancer. We use single-cell genomics and computational tools, live animal imaging and genetically engineered mouse models to study gene expression regulation mediated by transcription factors, epigenetic regulators and post-transcriptional mechanisms mediated by miRNAs and RNA binding proteins at the single-cell resolution in mammalian skin. 

Our research aims to address several fundamental questions in stem cell biology: how the developmental potential of embryonic progenitors and adult tissue stem cells is transmitted or restricted in their progenies at the molecular level when they go through critical transitions such as cell fate specification, self-renewal of stem cells as well as stress response, and how these regulatory mechanisms go awry in aging and diseases. Answers to these questions will help to manipulate skin stem cells for regenerative medicine and discover new treatment for human skin diseases.​

View all lab publications via PubMed.

For more information, visit the faculty profile page of Rui Yi, PhD or visit the Yi Laboratory website.

Contact Us

Email Dr. Yi

 

 

 

Follow DGP on