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MCD biology
RNA Center

Last updated on June 2020

We study spliceosomes

Spliceosomes are tiny molecular machines found in all human cells.

Spliceosomes help shape how our genes encode for an organism as unique and complex as a human being.

Genes represent packets of information that together serves as our blueprint. In order for the genetic instructions to be used, our genes must first be read and edited before finally being translated into the building blocks of our cells. As a result of the human genome project, we have come to realize that the editing process, termed splicing, explains how humans can have only five times as many genes as simple single-celled organisms and yet develop into an extremely complex organism with a brain that has billions of precise neural connections.

Spliceosomes are very complicated

Spliceosomes are up of over 100 individual parts (each encoded by their own gene!)

During splicing, these parts, proteins and RNAs, come together on gene transcripts to cut out parts of the transcript and paste the remaining pieces back together. Although we know what the spliceosome does, we do not have a very good understanding of how all the parts work together to do splicing.  Because it is often very helpful to see a machine in order to understand how it works, our research group uses a combination of tools to figure out what the spliceosome looks like doing its job. We use electron microscopes and biochemistry to create and interpret 3D models of the entire spliceosome and its individual parts. These models provide important basic knowledge that we and other scientists need in order to understand how our genetic information is processed.  And because many diseases, including cancers, can arise when changes in genetic information lead to abnormal cells or tissues, this information will be the foundation on which new medical breakthroughs in detecting and treating these diseases will rest.