Evolution of RNA Binding Protein Regulation of Brain Development

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP


Genes encode proteins, which are responsible for the various cell types we see. However, there is a crucial intermediary between the expression of a gene and the final protein that is produced: messenger RNA (mRNA). The regulation of mRNA has a massive impact on the time and location a particular protein will be produced. This control of mRNA is achieved by a complex post-transcriptional gene regulatory network - all the various factors that regulate the steps that lead from gene expression to protein production. One of the components of post-transcriptional gene regulatory networks are RNA-binding proteins (RBPs), proteins that bind to the mRNAs and control their fates in the cell. In the developing nervous system, the neural progenitor cells that are responsible for making the brain have to produce a diverse number of different cell types. In these cells, RBPs operate as part of the post-transcriptional gene regulatory network to control when and where certain proteins will be produced, reacting to external signals to allow the neural progenitors to produce the different cell types. This level of post-transcriptional regulation is well characterised in mammalian brains. However, in other vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds), posttranscriptional regulation of brain development is less known. This project will investigate RBPs, a major component of the post-transcriptional gene regulatory network, in a less studied vertebrate, the brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri). It will focus on RBPs that are involved in the process of neurogenesis (the production of neurons) and characterise the evolutionary history of the genes that encode these proteins. It will investigate where and when these RBPs are expressed during the development of the lamprey, as well as their function. This research will shed light on the evolution of the post-transcriptional gene regulatory network underpinning neural progenitor cells in vertebrates by leveraging a comparative phylogenetic approach.

BBSRC priority areas:
- Systems approaches to the biosciences
- Data driven biology
- Frontier bioscience: understanding the rules of life


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/T008784/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2028
2735241 Studentship BB/T008784/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026