College of Science Distinguished Speaker: Small RNAs – Small but Powerful
College of Science Distinguished Speaker
Small RNAs: Small but Powerful
Dr. Xuemei Chen
Department of Botany and Plant Sciences
University of California, Riverside
Small RNAs were the “dark matter” in biology until 2001-2002, when they were found to be universally present in animals and plants. In the past 20 years, efforts in the research community have unveiled many secrets of these enigmatic molecules and have begun to harness the power of these molecules to better agriculture and human health. We now know that small RNAs, like proteins and long RNAs, are integral players in the cellular orchestra of life. They seek out target genes through sequence complementarity and repress the expression of these target genes, thus serving a regulatory role in many biological processes. The sequence specificity in small RNA-based gene regulation is a desirable property that can be exploited in biotechnology, making it possible for us to manipulate the expression of specific genes to treat human diseases.
To harness the power of small RNAs, we have to understand the biology of small RNAs – how they are made, how they are stabilized, how they are degraded when not needed, how they are transported within and between cells, and how they act to repress target genes, etc. These questions are being actively tackled in the research community using a variety of experimental systems. My research group has been using the mustard plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a superb model with sophisticated genetic and molecular tools and resources, to study small RNAs. In my lecture, I will recount how our work on a totally different research topic led to the discovery of small RNAs in plants and discuss findings from our work in plants that are applicable to small RNA biology in general. I will also outline the potential uses of small RNAs in agriculture and medicine.
Xuemei Chen got her B.S. degree from Peking University and Ph.D. degree from Cornell University. After postdoctoral training at California Institute of Technology, she started her assistant professor position in 1999 at the Waksman Institute at Rutgers University. She was promoted to associate professor in 2005 and won the Board of Trustees Research Fellowship for Scholarly Excellence at Rutgers University. She moved to University of California, Riverside in 2005 as an associate professor and was promoted to full professor in 2009 and distinguished professor in 2013. In 2006, she received the Charles Albert Shull award from American Society of Plant Biologists. She was elected an AAAS Fellow in 2011 and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2013. She studied chloroplast gene expression in Chlamydomonas during her Ph.D. training and floral patterning mechanisms in Arabidopsis during her postdoc research. Her lab has focused on the molecular mechanisms underlying the biogenesis, degradation, and modes of action of small RNAs in plants and has recently begun to study RNA modifications.
No background knowledge required. All are welcome.
When and Where
Open to the Public