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Mobile silencing RNAs in plants

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Seminar
20 May 2014, 10.30am: Free
at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA
for scientists, students and other interested parties
Attila Molnar

Dr Attila Molnar of the University of Edinburgh, Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences will give this seminar entitled "Mobile silencing RNAs in plants" at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee. The seminar will be broadcast live to the Aberdeen site.

Abstract

RNA silencing is a gene regulatory mechanism that controls development, stress responses and molecular parasites such as viruses, transgenes and transposons. The sequence-specificity of RNA silencing relies on small non-coding RNA (sRNA) molecules. Spreading of RNA silencing across the plant has been recognised for nearly two decades, however, only recent publications demonstrated beyond a doubt that sRNAs act as mobile silencing signals.

I will discuss the consequences of mobile sRNAs on target gene expression and provide an example where mobile sRNAs are used to modify agronomic traits.

Biography

Dr Molnar received his PhD on differential gene expression driven morphological evolution in Hungary. He then joined the Burgyan laboratory to pursue his interest in the newly discovered antiviral and gene regulation system – RNA silencing. His work provided the first biochemical characterisation of viral RNA silencing suppressors.

In 2003, Dr Molnar joined Professor Sir David Baulcombe’s lab as an EMBO long-term postdoctoral fellow to investigate RNA silencing in the unicellular green algae Clamydomonas reinhardtii. His research led to the discovery of microRNAs, a special type of silencing RNAs, in Chlamydomonas, which were previously only known to associate with multicellular organisms. In addition, he developed a novel artificial microRNA system that can be used for high-throughput gene function studies in green algae.

In his second project in the Baulcombe lab, he demonstrated that systemic silencing is mediated by mobile small RNAs, and provided the first evidence in any organism that mobile small RNAs direct epigenetic changes in distant tissues. This observation illustrates the potential for a novel type of long distance signalling mechanism in plants.

In 2013, Dr Molnar received a Chancellor’s Fellowship from the University of Edinburgh, which allowed him to start up an independent lab. Currently, he is studying the synthesis and action of small RNAs with particular emphasis on epigenetic modifications driven by small RNA molecules.

The seminar is being hosted by Dr Jens Tilsner.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.