28 Jan – Talk by Andreas Wachter

Dr. Andreas Wachter, University of Tübingen, gives a talk titled “Regulation and functions of mRNA processing in plant development and stress responses“.

Thursday, 28/01/15 at 5:00 pm
TUD, Schnittspahnstraße 3, B1|01, room 52

Precursor messenger RNAs (pre-mRNAs) undergo extensive co- and posttranscriptional modification, massively expanding transcriptome diversity and playing an important role in gene control. Among those mechanisms, alternative pre-mRNA splicing (AS) is particularly widespread. AS can give rise to transcripts encoding different proteins or generate mRNAs containing certain cis-elements such as premature termination codons, which trigger mRNA degradation via the RNA surveillance pathway nonsense-mediated decay (NMD). Despite their widespread occurrence and enormous regulatory potential, plant AS and NMD are poorly understood and their physiological functions have been addressed in only few studies. We have identified Polypyrimidine tract binding proteins (PTBs) as central regulators of AS in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, with critical functions in development and drought resistance. Our ongoing work aims at the characterization of cis-regulatory motifs and splicing factor networks, constituting the plant splicing code. Furthermore, using a transcriptome-wide survey, frequent coupling of AS and NMD was revealed. Plant NMD activity is not constitutive but can be regulated, such as upon pathogen infection, and, as recently demonstrated by us, upon abiotic stress. Our data provide evidence that regulation of both AS and NMD play important functions in plant development and stress responses. Future work will address critical aspects of regulated mRNA processing, such as its temporal and spatial resolution, down to the level of single tissues and cells. Based on the intriguing links between our findings and agriculturally relevant traits, our work will also be extended to translational research in crop species. Moreover, the mechanistic insights into regulation of mRNA processing revealed by our studies is used to develop novel approaches in synthetic biology, such as TALE-mediated splicing factor targeting.