I attended three inspiring talks on a diverse set of non-coding RNA topics this week and would like to share some of the key messages I took home from these seminars. The presentations focused on: failures in ribosomal RNA maturation linked to cancer formation; RNA-binding proteins & passive binding by Dicer; and microRNAs as drug targets.
The talks were part of a PhD course at the University of Copenhagen and I heard about the open seminars after Anders Lund tweeted the program.
Talk 1: Cristian Bellodi - Post-transcriptional gene expression dynamics in stem and cancer cells
Cristian Bellodi is running the RNA and Stem Cell Biology group at Lund University, Sweden. His talk focused on the link of cancer development and errors in ribosomal RNA maturation.
Interestingly, they showed that defects in the pseudouridylation of ribosomal RNAs were linked to decreased translation of mRNAs containing an IRES element . IRES-dependent translation initiation is used by both viruses and eukaryotes to translate mRNAs independent of their 5’ cap. The widely studied tumor suppressor p53 is known to contain an IRES element . Thus, defects in the pseudouridylation of ribosomal RNAs can decrease p53 levels and hence contribute to cancer development.
Talk 2: Markus Landthaler - Regulation of gene expression by RNA-binding proteins
Markus Landthaler is head of the RNA Biology and Posttranscriptional Regulation group at the MDC, Berlin, Germany.
The first part of the seminar focused on the identification of RNA-protein binding events: to identify polyadenylated RNAs occupied by proteins  and to find binding sites of a protein of interest in a transcriptome-wide manner .
In the second part of his talk, Markus described the passive binding activity of Dicer . While Dicer, a endoribonuclease, is probably best known for its role in microRNA maturation, they were able to show that Dicer binds passively to specific targets without cleaving those targets. Instead, Dicer binding to an RNA often stabilizes the target.
Talk 3: Sakari Kauppinen - Therapeutic targeting of miRNAs
Sakari Kauppinen, Director of the Center for RNA Medicine at Aalborg University, Denmark, talked about the role of microRNAs as drug targets in cancer, cardiometabolic diseases, and hepatitis C virus infections. I personally enjoyed very much that Sakari’s talk and his research focus on the translational aspect of biomedical research. He highlighted some great examples were research results are brought to the bedside to improve the life of patients.
In fact, I just discovered a very interesting review article on the topic recently co-authored  by Sakari. As I really want to read this article now, I will stop this post here :) I hope that the short summaries and links I collected here serve as food for thought to every reader interested in non-coding RNAs.