The American Heart Association has awarded Aaron N. Johnson, assistant professor in integrative biology, an esteemed Scientist Development Grant. This award, which is intended to accelerate the research productivity of promising new investigators, is aimed at identifying genetic regulators of cardiac muscle development and disease. One challenge facing all cells is organizing information flow.
Bacteria solve this problem in part by clustering functionally related genes at discrete DNA locations called operons. In eukaryotes (non-bacterial species that include plants and animals), functionally related genes are scattered around the genome. However growing evidence suggests that functionally related eukaryotic gene products, RNAs, are co-regulated as discrete units termed RNA operons. Dr. Johnson has identified an RNA operon that coordinates the assembly of the contractile apparatus in muscle.
Ongoing research in the Johnson lab is aimed at characterizing the topography of this sarcomeric RNA operon using genetic, molecular, and biochemical techniques.