Modular Organization and Composability of RNA
University of Pennsylvania
Life is organized. On the macro scale, individuals and communities are organized into ecological niches; on the subcellular level, DNA nucleotides are organized into genes, and genes into chromosomes. To a large extent, organization is achieved via composability – that at some level of abstraction, a system consists of a series of smaller parts that serve as building blocks – and modularity – the tendency for these building blocks to be independent units that can be recombined to form functionally different systems. In this talk, I will briefly explore the ideas of modular organization and composition in RNA, a biopolymer that adopts a three-dimensional structure according to the specific sequence of nucleotides the molecule is composed of. I will present examples from my research in support of the idea that units of biological function can be associated with specific building-block RNA substructures over diverse contexts, from microRNAs to neuronally-expressed mRNA transcripts.