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Research Interests

Control of Gene Expression Reasearch

 

The main research area of our laboratory has been to elucidate factors determinant for the control of gene expression. Biological processes can not be fully understood without a deep understanding of RNA metabolism. In 2006 and 2009 three Nobel prizes were dedicated to research in the field of RNA and more recently the power of small RNAs and CRISPr technology has given a new perspective to Molecular Biology. Our laboratory has been focused in the study of RNA degradation mechanisms and the characterization of enzymes and RNA chaperones that mediate RNA decay in microorganisms. Namely we have studied RNase II family of ribonucleases in the maturation, degradation, and quality control of mRNAs and functional non-coding small RNAs. Our studies have been applied to areas of Biotechnological interest and Health, and we have been involved in European Projects on Synthetic Biology. We are experts in a variety of microbes (namely foodborne pathogens) but have also extended our research to eukaryotes to further understand the role of RNases in global regulation. Another area of interest in our laboratory is stress, biofilms, bacterial cell growth and survival.

The continuous breakdown and resynthesis of prokaryotic mRNA allows for the fast production of new kinds of proteins and best explains the rapid adaptation of micro-organisms to a changing environment. In this way mRNA levels can regulate protein synthesis and cellular growth. However, the inherent instability of prokaryotic mRNA has been one of the main obstacles to the profitable production of proteins of interest in industrial micro-organisms. The ribonucleases present, RNA chaperones and a plethora of small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) contribute to the network of post-transcriptional control of gene expression. RNAs differ in their susceptibility to degradation by endonucleases and exonucleases due to differences in their sequence and structure. The analysis of mRNA degradation has been difficult in all systems and, despite numerous studies, the process of RNA degradation is still poorly understood. Recent results appear to show that the similarities between RNA decay in the pro- and eukaryotic systems are greater than were generally believed. It is important to study RNA metabolism in different systems to allow universally conserved features to be recognized. 

Present work involves not only the understanding of the mechanism of action of RNases and their RNA targets, but also studies on microbial virulance and survival, and the use of synthetic biology to reprogramme bacteria for biotechnology use.

The team of C. Arraiano, in close collaboration with international partners, through the use of state-of-the-art technologies such as in vitro systems, functional genomics and RNomics, will continue to contribute to the knowledge and control of gene expression. 

 

Research Activities

 

  • Functional and structural studies of ribonucleases.
  • Ribonucleases in the regulation and quality control of cellular RNAs.
  • Non-coding RNAs and control of gene expression.
  • Post-transcriptional modifications: uridylation and adenylation of RNA.
  • Microbial stress and survival, including biofilm formation.
  • Foodborne pathogens and their virulence factors.
  • Synthetic biology and reprogramming of bacterial metabolism.
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