Intronic snoRNAs, Lipid Induced Oxidative Stress, and why the term “Junk DNA” should be BLASPHEMY

schafferLike many of my fellow bloggers, I too attended the talk by Jean Schaefer at the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Research Symposium at the University of Kentucky.  In her talk, she showed that snoRNAs in the intronic regions of fatty acid metabolic genes are important in regulating the oxidative stress and lipidtoxicity which cause cell death.  When they made a…wait for it….fluorescent construct to act as a reporter for the expression of snoRNAs in presence of high lipid levels in cell culture, many of these snoRNAs were shown to accumulate in the cytosol of the cell!  This is fascinating since small nucleolar RNAs are “expected” to be mostly localized to the nucleus.  Furthermore, she was able to show that both intronic microRNAs expressions and lipid linked oxidation change upon mutating specific snoRNAs.  Specifically, mutation of the snoRNAs U32a, U33, and U35a resulted in decrease of apoptosis in cells under metabolic stress conditions (high amounts of lipid).  In addition to the slides upon slides of data that she showed, I enjoyed how her talk showed the importance of intronic sequences and noncoding RNAs (RNAs and DNA sequences that do not directly contribute to making proteins in an organism) that have been traditionally ignored in genetics until recently.  Also I am creepingly stalking her, as I do with most scientists that I like, by directly sitting in front of her while typing this post.  (She was telling one of her colleagues about her path to science as a cardiologist who went to MIT to learn cell biology and ended up spending five years and becoming dedicated to basic research now with little clinical work–creeping clearly makes you find out interesting information).  Anyways, click on her picture to get to her lab’s website and all the interesting projects that go on in there.  She is…Definitely FANCY!


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