Ethan Hrobsky

Major: Biology
Purdue School of Science
Supervisor: Chris Borchers, Dr. Scott Aoki
Department: Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Indiana University School of Medicine

The Effect of Exogenous RNAs on Gene Expression in C. elegans Nematodes

RNA has long been a point of fascination within the fields of molecular and developmental biology. This is because of its ability to act as both a substrate (binding site) and as an enzyme; essentially RNA can catalyze its own reactions. Adding to the fascination researchers have long held with RNA enters RNA interference (RNAi), a mechanism of gene regulation that was discovered in a species of nematodes, C. elegans, by two scientists, Andrew Fire and Craig Mello, in 1998. One of these pathways involves a gene, rde-4, which produces a protein that recognizes and binds to double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). However, rde-4’s interaction with ribozymes is poorly understood. Thus, the goal of the present study was to determine whether rde-4 is also able to recognize and metabolize ribozymes. Ribozymes are RNA molecules that act on messenger RNA (mRNA) and possess a characteristic hairpin shape which creates a double-stranded structure. Understanding the metabolism of ribozymes through this pathway is important because all organisms encounter ribozymes daily whether through pathogens or through food. This work then will provide insights on how ribozymes are metabolized in a model multicellular organism and broaden our understanding of developmental biology, immunology, and virology.