RNA Metabolism

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Amy Lee

Assistant Professor of Cell Biology
Assistant Professor of Cancer Immunology and Virology (DFCI)

Amy S.Y. Lee Ph.D. received her Ph.D. in Virology at Harvard University in 2012, and then performed postdoctoral research on biochemical and cellular mechanisms of gene regulation at University of California – Berkeley. She joined the faculty in the Department of Biology at Brandeis University in 2016, and subsequently moved to join Harvard Medical School and DFCI in 2020. 

The Lee Lab studies how cells sense and respond to environmental signals by modulating protein synthesis. Specifically, the lab’s research is focused on discovering mechanisms regulating specialized mRNA translation and how these pathways are controlled during organismal development, viral infection, and cellular stress. To obtain broad insights into regulation of protein synthesis, the Lee lab applies an integrative approach combining RNA-protein biochemistry, cell-based experiments, structural biology, and development of new sequencing-based technology. Our research provides mechanistic understanding of the translation regulation networks that coordinate the precise control required for correct development and cellular function.

David Van Vactor

Professor of Cell Biology
Director of Biological and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program
Program Director/PI of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Dynamics T32
Faculty Director of Harvard Curriculum Fellows Program

David Van Vactor, Ph.D. is a Professor of Cell Biology in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and a member of the Program in Neuroscience and the DFCI/Harvard Cancer Center. He is the Faculty Director of the HMS Curriculum Fellows program and Director/PI of Harvard’s Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Dynamics (MCD2) T32 PhD training program. He is also a Visiting Professor at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University in Japan.  Dr. Van Vactor received his B.A. in Behavioral Biology at the Johns Hopkins University and his Ph.D. from the Department of Biological Chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), before post-doctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Van Vactor Lab is focused on understanding the development, maintenance and plasticity of neuromuscular connectivity in the model organism Drosophila. The coordinated morphogenesis of the synapse, fundamental unit of cell-cell communication in neural networks, requires many layers of regulatory mechanisms.  Genome-wide enhancer/suppressor screens to define the molecular machinery controlling neuromuscular junction development (NMJ) led us to multiple translational regulators, including a number of microRNA (miR) genes. Because the fly NMJ has served so well for genetic analysis of synapse development and function in many labs, we have a sophisticated knowledge of underling pathways and gene networks, thus making this a system particularly well suited to explore upstream regulatory logic. Using conditional genetic tools to manipulate the function of conserved miRs and their target genes, we have identified several novel regulatory pathways.  In addition, through a close and long-term collaboration with the Artavanis-Tsakonas Lab, we have worked to better understand developmental and age-dependent degeneration of the neuromuscular system using a variety of models for human disease in Drosophila.

Robin Reed

Professor of Cell Biology

Robin Reed, Ph.D. became a Professor of Cell Biology in 2000. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular biology at Yale University and carried out postdoctoral studies at Harvard University (Cambridge).

Research in the Reed Lab focuses on pre-mRNA splicing and mRNA export as well as numerous other aspects of RNA metabolism. Both the basic biology and disease states are examined in the lab. These diseases include ALS, blood cancers and familial dysautonomia. We use both in vitro and in vivo systems for transcription, splicing and other steps of gene expression. We also use CRISPR editing of human embryonic stem cells, proteomics, RNA-seq and other molecular approaches to understand the biology of gene expression and to identify potential therapeutics for the associated diseases.

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