Jeffrey Chao: Imaging the life and death of mRNAs in single cells
Gene expression requires an orchestrated series of events that is regulated temporally and spatially within the cell. After transcription, an mRNA must be spliced, processed, exported, transported and translated before it is eventually degraded. At each step, the factors that control the fate of the mRNA in either the nucleus or cytoplasm must be appropriately assembled, disassembled or remodeled. Not only is the composition of these macromolecular complexes dynamic, but there are also over 2000 proteins in the human genome involved in RNA metabolism, which makes them extremely heterogeneous as well. In order to better understand the molecular underpinnings that regulate these processes and how these complexes function within their cellular context, our research combines biochemical and structural (X-ray crystallography) techniques with single-molecule imaging of mRNAs in living cells.