Russell Group



Small non-coding RNAs in unicellular eukaryotes

Ribonucleic acid molecules called non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) have diverse functions, controlling a variety of essential cellular processes in all organisms. Many eukaryotic genomes contain more genomic DNA sequence specifying the production of ncRNAs than specifying proteins and yet, the detailed function of many of these ncRNAs remains unknown. Consequently, identifying and determining functions of ncRNAs is becoming an increasingly important area of functional genomics - relating genomic DNA sequence to biological function - and is a primary objective of our research group.

We are identifying the structure and function of ncRNAs and their associated protein constituents in the primarily unicellular eukaryotes collectively referred to as protists. We employ a multi-disciplinary approach utilizing bioinformatic, biochemical, molecular biological and genetic strategies to identify and characterize new ncRNAs, the RNP complexes in which they reside, and in vivo assembly pathways.

We have a particular interest in studying spliceosomes, the eukaryotic RNP complexes that specify the removal of introns from precursor messenger RNAs, and small nucleolar (sno) RNPs, complexes that are involved in several aspects of ribosome biogenesis.

Both are ancient cellular complexes and our group also studies the evolution of these and other RNPs in eukaryotes. Within the Alberta RNA Research and Training Institute (ARRTI), we are a Laboratory for Structure and Function of Small Non-coding RNAs.

Group Members (Fall 2018)

  1. David McWatters (PhD student)
  2. Aroura Gagnon (PhD student)

Successes in 2012-2013

  • Oral Presentation Award at RiboWest 2012 – Ashley Moore
  • Oral Presentation Award at Biology Graduate Research Symposium – Ashley Moore
  • NSERC Alexander Graham Bell (CGS-D3) Graduate Scholarship – Ashley Moore
  • NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award – Kenzie Visser
  • Chinook Summer Research Award – David Elniski
  • Chinook Summer Research Award – Ben Vuong