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Molecular biology of the gene

Regulation of gene expression is fundamental for cell homeostasis and invariably leads to severe human pathogenesis when defective. Therefore, novel treatment strategies for a number of different diseases may depend on our ability to exploit mechanisms that normally alter the expression of endogenous genes. While historically, gene regulation studies have mostly focused on transcription, it has recently become evident that post-transcriptional levels of control play an equally important role. From the very onset of transcription, mRNAs have a complex existence: they are bound by the abundant shuttling hnRNPs proteins, processed at their 5'- and 3' ends (capping, poly-adenylation), internally processed and modified (splicing, editing,...), subjected to various nuclear quality controls (tested for the absence of premature stops,...), routed to the nuclear pore complex, translocated to the cytoplasm, translated (and/or stored) and eventually degraded. All these events are intimately fine-tuned and co-ordinated to ensure that Only 'proper' mRNAs are translated at the correct time and place. Our laboratory studies different aspects of postranscriptional gene regulation with a particular focus on the translation and stability control of mRNA containing so called AU-rich elements.


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