RNA Systems Biology Lab

Up until very recently, the major focus in gene-regulation was on DNA and DNA-binding proteins. However, it turns out that RNA is not just a passive intermediary between DNA and proteins; RNA also has structural and regulatory functions in addition to its coding functions. The Monash University RNA Systems Biology Laboratory are interested in how both coding and non-coding RNA is expressed and regulated in cells, and how the fine-tuning of this expression, which differentiates health from disease, is maintained.

The Monash University RNA Systems Biology lab developed a technique called PAT-seq: A high throughput approach to measuring RNA dynamics. PAT-seq (for Poly(A)-Tail sequencing) measures genome-wide RNA concentration, the position of polyadenylation and polyadenylation-length in eukaryotic cells. This approach together with a new bioinformatic data analysis pipeline makes hundreds of millions of individual data-points available to biologists. This technique along with other ones used by the Lab underpins unique research, associated with high-classed publications (and more in the future) and is of profound importance to the biological community worldwide.

Next generation sequencing (NGS) provides a holistic, systems level view of the RNA expression profile in cells, and since disease often leaves signature fingerprints of deregulation on such profiles, it can be a powerful diagnostic for various disease states including for cancer. The Monash University RNA Systems Biology Lab uses custom RNA-seq technologies in a diverse set of model organism and cultured-cells to study RNA dynamics. Specifically, they are interested in the post-transcriptional regulation of RNA that determines when, where and how often, mRNA is translated to make proteins. Because they seek to understand how every RNA in our system is regulated, their experiments often have 100s of millions of data-points and thus require the input of computational biologists.