John Thiele 2013 spent the summer studying the way cells regulate the expression of RNA at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany. The EMBL is Europeʼs leading research organization focusing on fundamental discoveries in molecular biology and is composed of over 85 research laboratories with diverse research interests.
“John began in my research lab last year and is continuing this semester,” says Ursinus Biology Professor Rebecca Roberts. “He’s been involved in the analysis of immunologically-important cell surface proteins on B lymphocytes using fluorescence activated cell scanning (FACS). Specifically he is looking at the regulation of these proteins by estrogen and the environmental estrogen, bisphenol A, using a mouse model of the autoimmune disease Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.”
John secured an internship in the laboratory of Professor Matthias Hentze, Associate Director of the EMBL and one of the leading laboratories in the world investigating how messenger RNA (mRNA) is expressed through the action of mRNA binding proteins. Messenger RNA is made from the DNA genome and carries the information to encode proteins that serve as the building blocks and workhorses of all cells.
These mRNAs are under strict controls in cells, which use mRNA interacting proteins to mature, transport, selectively degrade or translate mRNA into proteins, as key regulatory processes in growth, development and disease. The Hentze laboratory created a novel technique, dubbed the “interactome capture” approach, to capture all of the mRNA binding proteins, and their mRNA cargo, in human cells. This approach allows detailed investigations of how mRNAs are regulated and how and why this regulation may go awry in diseases such as cancer.
John worked with graduate students, medical students and postdoctoral fellows in the Hentze group to try to establish conditions to test whether this approach can be applied to bacterial cells and to human cells growing under stressful conditions. His previous research internship at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, in the summer of 2011, coupled with coursework in biology and chemistry at Ursinus and his research training in Robertsʼ lab in the Biology Department at Ursinus, prepared him well to immerse himself in the exciting research program at the EMBL in Heidelberg.