The RNA Journal is twenty years old and as part of their anniversary around 130 researchers in the field of RNA biology have contributed some of their personal reflections of working in this area. Contributors include Douglas Black, Michael Rosbash and Alberto Kornblihtt.
I’ve browsed through some of the essays and one that caught my attention was ‘Thoughts on NGS, alternative splicing and what we still need to know‘ by Kristen Lynch. Here she emphasises the need to determine the functional consequences of alternative splicing for an organism, and as she pointedly says ‘To truly appreciate the full impact of alternative splicing on biologic processes, and argue against those who wonder if it might all be “noise,” we need to do better. The question is how to achieve this goal’. [Note that NGS in the title of the article refers to Next Generation Sequencing]
As a relative newcomer to the field of AS, I think it’ll be useful for me to delve into these articles – they seem to be a refreshing way to learn how quickly research into AS has ‘evolved’ as well as providing an honest outlook as to what areas seem to be a priority for future work.
The cover art in interesting too – it is entitled ‘Group in Sea, 1979, by Philip Guston‘. He was an American abstract expressionist painter.
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I’ve been working with Ally Wallace to develop cartoon-like drawings that illustrate our research – here is some work in progress. I like the lab soundscape in the background. The aim was to develop something that might appeal to a younger audience, and tries to take an imaginative approach to the subject. Maybe a bit too wordy, so I’m now doing much more stripped back drawings – these were all done on an iPad using the ProCreate app. Then again, maybe it would be better as a short pamphlet/book….let’s see.
I was asked the other day if I could explain our research in 45 seconds, and after fumbling about with cumbersome nuggets such as ‘post-transcriptional mechanism’ and ‘spliceosome‘ and ‘exon-intron junctions’ decided it probably needed a drastic change of tact!
Anyway, it struck me that one of the key things to get across about alternative splicing is how important the inclusion (or exclusion) of an exon in a pre-mRNA has on how the mRNA is read or interpreted. If you substitute reading RNA messages with English grammar it reminds me of a funny Panda-related sentence that Hugh introduced me to a while back. It emphasises just how important a comma (or alternate exon, for example) has on the whole interpretation of the message. Compare these two sentences describing Pandas:
Eats shoots and leaves OR Eats, shoots and leaves
Notice how the comma completely changes the whole meaning and interpretation of the statement.
I think that this could be a good way to try to put across the key feature of splicing. Can it be done in 45 secs? Watch this space!
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I suppose ‘It’s About Time’ we actually posted something!
It’s taken us a while but hopefully this is the start of an interesting way to disseminate what we get up to in our labs and provide a sort of diary of our activities.
During the establishment of this blog we’ve talked a lot about how time and seasons seemed to be a huge influence on artists and songwriters (I’ve been introduced to the delights of Fairport Convention & The Incredible String Band, for example) and I’m sure that this will be a subject of future posts – Time and the passage of Time sure seems to get under our skins, no?