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Using evolution to uncover the importance of alternative pre mRNA splicing (ConserveAS)
Start date: Nov 1, 2013, End date: Oct 31, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

A major mystery of the genome age is why complex and simple organisms all have a similar number of genes. My specialism is in ‘Alternative Splicing’ which is the means by which different products can be made from a single gene by differential incorporation of regions of pre-mRNA. Alternative splicing is therefore a mechanism to increase gene complexity in complex organisms like man and in complex tissues like the brain. Alternative splicing has since been shown to be a pervasive mechanism crucial to normal health and development. For two decades labs studied alternative splicing on a gene-by-gene basis. In the last ten years genomewide data has increased the number of known alternative events, and recent developments have found that at least 80% of genes produce alternative mRNAs. The major questions in the field currently concern which of these alternative splices are important, and the problem remains of how to answer this using a huge amount of data. The key innovation of this application is to use an evolutionary approach to identify the important alternative splices using a unique high throughput RT-PCR approach. The proposed project will involve collaboration with biological experts in Newcastle studying brain, muscle and stem cells, with an expert on evolution in France (Dr. Philippe Fort) and with the genomics platform (for which I worked for three years) in Quebec, Canada.

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