Functional RNAomics

Functional RNAomics Research Group

Research Group Head

The Functional RNAomics Laboratory investigates gene regulation through RNA binding proteins in tissues that rely on continuous production of new cells during development or throughout life. RNA binding proteins form regulatory RNP complexes with RNA that are the functional units of all RNA. We aim to crack the RNP code of distinct cell types that share a common property of rapid turnover. We hope that one day our discoveries will help the development of new RNA-based therapies and diagnostics to improve the treatment of infertility, cancer and haematological conditions.

Research focus – RNP code of tissues relying on continuous production of new cells

During early development, cells are pluripotent able to give rise to all cells in the body. Although the potency of most cells declines during development, some cells remain capable of giving rise to multiple cell types even after birth. These stem cells are particularly important in tissues that need to produce new cells throughout life such as the male germ line, the intestinal lining and blood cell lineages. Our work has demonstrated that gene regulation through RNA binding proteins is particularly important in these rapidly renewing cell lineages. Our research focuses on RNA that is produced from the DNA template to bring the genome to life. RNA binding proteins are required to make these RNAs ready to serve their cellular functions. Mutations disrupting RNA metabolism account for ~30% of all known disease-causing mutations, alterations in splicing patterns are a hallmark of cancer and RNA binding protein expression is frequently dysregulated in cancer cells.

The Functional RNAomics Laboratory integrates comprehensive catalogues of RNA repertoires, global RNA binding protein maps, proteomics profiles and high-resolution structures with distinct cellular phenotypes to gain a mechanistic and functional understanding of RNP constituents in the cell lineages that rely on the continues production of new cells. Our goal is to reveal key mechanisms involved in male fertility, blood clotting, maintenance of healthy intestinal lining and causes of malignant transformation. RNA shows great promise as a therapeutic and biomarker but a detailed knowledge of RNA regulation in cells is a prerequisite to realise the full potential of RNA-based therapeutic and diagnostic development.

Current projects

RNA regulation in pluripotent and adult stem cells

RNA binding proteins in developmental defects and cancer

RNA biology of blood cells– what makes blood cells vulnerable to RNA processing defects

If you have an interest in RNA, the other nucleic acid, and would like to join our quest for cracking the RNA code, either by working at the lab bench or at the computer, please contact the Research Group Head | e:  minni.anko@hudson.org.au.

Research Group

Selected publications

  • Legrand JMD, Chan A-L, Hue M, Rossello FJ, Anko M-L, Fuller-Pace FV and Hobbs RM (2019) DDX5 plays essential transcriptional and post-transcriptional roles in the maintenance and function of spermatogonia.  Nature Communications 10:  2278.