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Event Detail (Archived)

RNA Triple Helices in Cellular and Viral Biology

The Bruce Merrifield Distinguished Lecture

Event Details

Friday Lecture Series
Joan A. Steitz, Ph.D., Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Noncoding (nc)RNAs play pivotal roles in the regulation of gene expression, but exhibit a diversity of functions whether encoded by cellular or viral genomes. Dr. Steitz's studies of ncRNAs produced by the oncogenic gamma herpesviruses illustrate the habit of viruses to acquire components from their host cells but then utilize them – sometimes in quite different ways – to enhance the viral life cycle. One example is the use of RNA elements called ENEs by both viruses and cells to stabilize intronless transcripts by engaging the polyA tail or 3’-terminal A-rich tract in a triple-helical RNA structure that obstructs the initiation of degradation. Dr. Steitz's structural studies of ENEs from the PAN ncRNA of the oncogenic virus KSHV and from the vertebrate long ncRNA MALAT1 have led to unanticipated insights into the structure of RNA triple helices. More recently, the identification of hundreds of PAN-like ENEs in transposons in non-metazoan species has illuminated how ENE acquisition and intron loss may be coupled. Thus, such studies provide insights into the evolution of both viruses and their host organisms.

Dr. Steitz received her B.S. in chemistry from Antioch College in 1963 and her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Harvard in 1967. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, she was appointed assistant professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale, becoming full professor in 1978. She has been an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1986. Dr. Steitz has been the recipient of more than fifty awards, including the National Medal of Science, the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, and the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize. She has received 19 honorary degrees, one of which was awarded from The Rockefeller University. In addition to being on Rockefeller's Board of Trustees, Dr. Steitz is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society, the Royal Society of London (foreign), National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Medicine.

Justin Sloboda
(212) 327-7785
Open to
James Darnell, M.D.
Refreshments, 3:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m., Abby Lounge
Justin Sloboda
(212) 327-7785

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