RNA Binding

RNA modifications are ubiquitous in biology and present in all classes of cellular RNAs including eukaryotic messenger and long non-coding RNA. A large fraction of mammalian mRNA/lncRNA modifications are also known to be reversible, highly dynamic, and occur in cell type and cell state dependent manner. The dynamic RNA epitranscriptomes, those involving N6-methyladenosine (m6A) in particular, are known to regulate many cellular activities including mRNA splicing, export, cytoplasmic localization, stability, translation activity, microRNA processing, immune tolerance, and to impact cellular processes including proliferation, development, circadian rhythm, and embryonic stem cell differentiation. Consider m6A in mRNA/lncRNA as an example, dedicated writers, erasers, and readers exist in human cells to orchestrate an additional layer of complex post-transcriptional gene expression regulation. Emerging new functions of RNA modifications are expected to follow, with significant implications on many aspects of human health and disease. Despite high potentials and promises, current epitranscriptome studies are significantly hampered by the lack of technologies that enable quantitative mapping of any type of mRNA/lncRNA modifications at high resolution and high sensitivity.

Our center will develop new methods that target mRNA/lncRNA modifications, such as m6A, N1-methyladenosine (m1A), 5-methylcytosine (m5C), and 2’O-methyls (Nm) for high-throughput sequencing at single-base resolution and suitable for low input RNA isolated from just hundreds to thousands of cells. New bioinformatics tools will be developed in order to facilitate data analysis. The general approaches proposed can be broadly applied to sequence RNA modifications in other RNA species including more abundant ribosomal RNA, transfer RNA, snRNA, and snoRNA as well as miRNA and piRNA. We will apply the newly developed methods to obtain base-resolution maps of RNA modifications in order to associate with human diseases, and to proof-of-principle studies in neuro-biology.

Our research will establish high-throughput, high-resolution, and high-sensitivity methods for epitranscriptome research in all biological areas.