Speaker: Ye (Grace) Chen, Ph.D.
Affiliation: Epithelial Biology, School of Medicine, Stanford University
Circumnavigating the RNA World: Circular RNA Immunity
The discovery of novel RNAs challenges the simplistic central dogma that RNA is merely an intermediary between DNA and proteins. Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are single-stranded RNAs that are covalently joined head to tail. This is a newly identified class of ubiquitous RNAs in essentially all eukaryotes. Conservation across the eukaryotic tree of life strongly suggests that circRNAs have a functional role in the cell. However, whether and how circular RNAs are sensed or evade the immune system is completely unknown. Grace’s research has unveiled a self-nonself discrimination system for circRNAs in human and mouse cells, and demonstrated that foreign circular RNAs potently stimulate innate immune signaling. Her research has further identified that the intron that programs the circular RNA biogenesis dictates its self-nonself status. In addition, Grace discovered that delivery of circRNA confers protection against viral infection, presenting the potential that circRNAs can be developed into an immunotherapy and/or vaccine adjuvant. Collectively, this work has revealed a fundamentally new system of RNA self-nonself discrimination, and showed how circRNAs dictate RNA immunity.
Grace grew up in Davis, California and spent her summers collecting plant and water samples from around the Central Valley. She attended UC Berkeley for college and majored in Chemical Biology. She received her PhD from Harvard University in Chemical Biology where she developed methods to detect and characterize novel RNA modifications. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University working on circular RNA immunity.
Date(s) - Jan 25, 2018
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm