Bachelor of Arts, Lewis & Clark College (2005)
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin Madison (2011)
Philip Beachy, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
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Cellular RNA-protein (RNP) granules are ubiquitous and have fundamental roles in biology and RNA metabolism, but the molecular basis of their structure, assembly, and function is poorly understood. Using nematode "P-granules" as a paradigm, we focus on the PGL granule scaffold protein to gain molecular insights into RNP granule structure and assembly. We first identify a PGL dimerization domain (DD) and determine its crystal structure. PGL-1 DD has a novel 13 ?-helix fold that creates a positively charged channel as a homodimer. We investigate its capacity to bind RNA and discover unexpectedly that PGL-1 DD is a guanosine-specific, single-stranded endonuclease. Discovery of the PGL homodimer, together with previous results, suggests a model in which the PGL DD dimer forms a fundamental building block for P-granule assembly. Discovery of the PGL RNase activity expands the role of RNP granule assembly proteins to include enzymatic activity in addition to their job as structural scaffolds.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1524400113
View details for Web of Science ID 000369085100060
View details for PubMedID 26787882
Epigenetic information is frequently erased near the start of each new generation. In some cases, however, epigenetic information can be transmitted from parent to progeny (multigenerational epigenetic inheritance). A particularly notable example of this type of epigenetic inheritance is double-stranded RNA-mediated gene silencing in Caenorhabditis elegans. This RNA-mediated interference (RNAi) can be inherited for more than five generations. To understand this process, here we conduct a genetic screen for nematodes defective in transmitting RNAi silencing signals to future generations. This screen identified the heritable RNAi defective 1 (hrde-1) gene. hrde-1 encodes an Argonaute protein that associates with small interfering RNAs in the germ cells of progeny of animals exposed to double-stranded RNA. In the nuclei of these germ cells, HRDE-1 engages the nuclear RNAi defective pathway to direct the trimethylation of histone H3 at Lys?9 (H3K9me3) at RNAi-targeted genomic loci and promote RNAi inheritance. Under normal growth conditions, HRDE-1 associates with endogenously expressed short interfering RNAs, which direct nuclear gene silencing in germ cells. In hrde-1- or nuclear RNAi-deficient animals, germline silencing is lost over generational time. Concurrently, these animals exhibit steadily worsening defects in gamete formation and function that ultimately lead to sterility. These results establish that the Argonaute protein HRDE-1 directs gene-silencing events in germ-cell nuclei that drive multigenerational RNAi inheritance and promote immortality of the germ-cell lineage. We propose that C. elegans use the RNAi inheritance machinery to transmit epigenetic information, accrued by past generations, into future generations to regulate important biological processes.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nature11352
View details for Web of Science ID 000308860900049
View details for PubMedID 22810588
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3509936