Four MGM Trainees Receive Prestigious Fellowships

February 6, 2014

Four trainees in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, including Laura Simone Bisogno, Anthony Moore, Emily Snavely, and Barbara Sixt, have received prestigious fellowships to support their research.

Laura Simone Bisogno, a graduate student in the University Program in Genetics and Genomics (UPGG) working in the laboratory of Jack Keene, PhD in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, was recently awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Cancer Institute for a proposal entitled “Post-transcriptional regulation by HuR and microRNAs during tumorigenesis.”

The Keene lab investigates dynamic changes in RNA targets and their coordination under various biological conditions.

According to Bisogno, “Regulation of RNAs by the RNA binding protein (RBP) HuR is known to be altered in many cancers, and it may contribute to tumorigenesis by aberrantly regulating cancer-related RNA targets. Recent data from the Keene lab indicate that knocking down HuR increases mRNA instability while antagonizing microRNA-mediated repression. This suggests that HuR competes with microRNAs to override their typically inhibitory functions. Although important in proliferating mammalian cells, little is known about the RBP/miRNA dynamics that take place during tumorigenesis.”

Bisogno set up a step-wise cell culture model of breast cancer in which to study HuR, in addition to other RBPs, and microRNA target dynamics that occur during the transition from a normal primary epithelial cell to a fully transformed malignant cell. This approach will provide a comprehensive understanding of coordinated post-transcriptional regulation necessary for the acquisition of the cancer related gene-expression program.

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Anthony Moore, a graduate student in the University Program in Genetics and Genomics (UPGG) working in the laboratory of Tom Petes, PhD, in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, was recently awarded an Underrepresented Individuals in Science Supplement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a proposal entitled, “Genetic regulation of genome stability in yeast”.

The Petes lab is active in three research areas: 1) the cellular mechanisms that regulate genome stability, 2) the genetic control of the replication and maintenance of chromosome ends (telomeres), and 3) the mechanisms that control the level of meiotic recombination. Almost all studies are done using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Moore’s research background varies from an ecological study of an invasive apple snail species to population genetics survey of a Ugandan rat. His scientific interests focus on locating those ecologically and/or evolutionary important variations in phenotypes or behaviors and locating the variations at the regulatory, genetic and developmental level that lead to those variations. His passion remains in ecology and evolutionary biology with a fundamental molecular focus.

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Emily Snavely, a graduate student in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology working in the laboratory of Raphael Valdivia, PhD, in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, was recently awarded an Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) to study Type II secretion in Chlamydiavirulence. In addition, Barbara Sixt, a postdoctoral fellow in the Valdivia lab received a Marie Curie Actions International Fellowship to study molecular mechanisms of inhibition of apoptosis by Chlamydia.

The Valdivia lab actively focuses on how obligate intracellular bacterial pathogens (i.e., Chlamydia) manipulate host cellular functions to replicate, disseminate and ultimately cause disease.

Snavely’s research interests primarily focus on microbial pathogenesis.

Sixt’s research interests focus on the genetic techniques for the analysis of chlamydiae. While working in the Valdivia lab, Sixt aims to contribute to the further development of newly established genetic techniques for the analysis of chlamydiae and to apply these techniques to obtain deeper insights into the interaction of the sexually transmitted human pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis with its host cell.