MIG Seminar – Minni Änkö – 8th December, 2017


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Andrew Siebel


T: +61 3 8344 0707

Minni Änkö

Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University

Friday 8th December
FW Jones Theatre, Level 3, Medical Building, The University of Melbourne

From cells to systems - RNA binding proteins at the heart of gene regulation in health and disease

Although the genome contains the code for gene expression, RNA processing tunes the output, for example through transcript variants. Thereby, RNA processing provides a critical regulatory point and aberrations in the machinery result in genetic disorders and cancer. Unlike the genetic code, we are far from deciphering the RNA code due its inherent complexity arising from the plasticity of the regulatory signals. The difficulty of reliably detecting regulated RNA processing such as pre-mRNA splicing from RNA-sequencing data contributes to this challenge.  Recent studies have catalogued RNA binding proteins and global changes in RNA processing in different cell types, but there has been little demonstration of the functional consequences of regulated RNA processing. Thus, understanding the cellular relevance of RNA processing remains a major challenge in the field. The life and function of RNA is delicately controlled by RNA binding proteins that are required at every step of RNA processing from transcription to translation and have immense potential to modify the gene expression output of cells. Our work focuses on investigating how RNA binding proteins regulate gene expression through RNA processing in specific tissues and in disease. Our recent studies have highlighted the context dependency of the RNA code. Taking advantage of various RNA sequencing applications, we have revealed how the RNA binding protein SRSF3 regulates coordinated RNA networks depending on the cellular environment. In pluripotent cells, SRSF3 controls of NANOG-centered pluripotency circuitry while during blood cell differentiation it directs a RNA processing program that is essential for the maturation of megakaryocytes and the production of platelets. By combining genomics and bioinformatics with cell and molecular biology, we have started linking molecular level events to cellular functions which will help in deciphering the RNA code of different cell types and have major implications to disease biology.

Minni (Minna-Liisa) Änkö heads the RNA Processing in Health and Disease Laboratory at the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University. She obtained her PhD from the Åbo Akademi University in Finland. She was a post-doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Cell Biology and Genetics, in Dresden, Germany 2006-2011. Minni moved to Australia in 2011, when she worked as a visiting scientist at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute, Monash University. She then continued her research as a senior research fellow at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (2012-2013) until moving to her current position at the Monash University. The RNA Processing in Health and Disease Laboratory investigates gene regulation via RNA processing by combining wet and dry lab approaches.  The focus is on understanding how RNA binding proteins tune the gene expression output in various types of stem cells and the haematopoietic system and how aberrations in the machinery result in genetic disorders and cancer.

Enquiries: Andrew Siebel (asiebel@unimelb.edu.au)