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Immune & Stress Response Mediated by RNA
Protein levels in mammalian cells are set largely by the abundance of their messenger RNAs (mRNAs). The mRNA abundance depends on mRNA production and decay, which change according to the needs of the cell. The production is controlled by transcription factors or by chromatin modifications epigenetically, whereas decay is controlled by microRNAs (miRNAs), by proteins that bind to AU-rich RNA elements (AREs) in mRNAs, as well as by poly-U tail addition or m6A methylation.
In addition, mammalian cells contain a variety of sensors that survey conditions inside the cells (DNA damage, viral or bacterial molecules) or outside the cells (cytokines, chemokines, interferons, viral or bacterial molecules), and tune the levels of mRNAs involved in immune and stress programs. These programs either help the cell to adapt to the damage or kill the cell to benefit survival of the whole organism. They are important not only for normal cellular functions, but also for infectious and neoplastic diseases, inflammatory and degenerative disorders, diabetes and innate (i.e. pre-programmed) immunity.