In the most recent funding round, Deputy Director of the Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, Professor Corinne Houart, has been awarded a prestigious Investigator Award in Science by the Wellcome Trust.
Corinne Houart’s Investigator Award is a five-year grant to unravel the functions of splicing proteins and intron retention in developing and mature axons. In recent years, there has been growing recognition of the key role in neuronal maturation and maintenance of connectivity that RNA dynamics play in axons and dendrites. There are many mysteries that remain however, including the functional roles of transported mRNAs and their binding proteins. Some proteins associated to local mRNAs are splicing factors and spliceosome proteins whose axonal role is complex (Nikolaou et al. 2020).
The Houart lab’s findings in collaboration with Prof Eugene Makeyev raise two fundamental questions: how are these splicing proteins shaping the transcriptome landscape locally, and what is the molecular nature of the axonal interactions between specific mRNAs and these two proteins? Additionally, recent findings of axonal and dendritic partially spliced mRNAs, retaining a single intron, open the additional question of the role(s) of intron-retaining transcripts in neurites and the possibility of direct functional interaction between retained introns and splicing proteins.
In Prof Houart’s Investigator Award, her lab will address these essential questions at the cellular and molecular levels. Her lab is a world leader in using the zebrafish as a model system and this programme will examine developing neurons (in zebrafish embryos and in culture) to understand the roles of intron retention and splicing factors in axons.
Investigator Awards in Science are prestigious accolades awarded to leading researchers with a compelling research vision, tackling the most important questions of their field. The Centre for Developmental Neurobiology is now home to six Investigator Award in Science holders: Prof Oscar Marín, Prof Beatriz Rico, Dr Martin Meyer (now an Affiliated Academic and Director of the Lundbeck Foundation’s Brain Prize), Prof Benedikt Berninger, Prof Juan Burrone and most recently, Prof Corrine Houart.