Professor Thomas Preiss, RNA Biology Group, Department of Genome Biology, JCSMR, ANU.
The sequencing of the human genome has enabled a wealth of new research aimed at understanding how our genes function. Genes serve as units of heredity but also as blueprints for the production of the many building blocks of life that our cells need to continuously produce to maintain a healthy body. The central ‘dogma’ of molecular biology has been for some time that genes residing in DNA encode these building blocks called proteins and that the production of proteins is governed by transient gene copies called messenger RNA. Although it remains a major tenet of modern life sciences, the availability of whole genome data has nevertheless considerably enriched this view. For instance, we know now of the existence of vast stretches of DNA in our genome that were initially termed ‘junk’ because they lack clear capacity to code for protein production. Much of this junk DNA is nevertheless copied into ‘noncoding’ RNA that we now suspect have important regulatory functions. The almost accidental discovery of the existence and importance of noncoding RNA may be likened to Columbus’s unwitting discovery of America while searching for a new route to Asia.
Professor Preiss heads the RNA Biology Group within the Genome Biology Department at JCSMR and will give an introduction to the roles of RNA as a regulator of cellular processes. DNA has firmly established itself in contemporary culture, often referred to as a metaphor for heritage or excellence. While we still have some way to go before products and brands will be advertised for their ‘distinctive RNA’, this lecture may enable the audience to better appreciate the importance of RNA alongside its glamorous cousin DNA.
This lecture is free and open to the public.