The 20th Dr. Martin Rodbell Lecture Seminar titled, "Genome Regulation by Long Noncoding RNAs," took place June 12 at NIEHS. This year’s speaker, Howard Chang, M.D., Ph.D., made seminal discoveries about long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) and developed a number of methods for epigenetic profiling.
"These methods are widely used at NIEHS and have been instrumental in helping us understand the regulation of the genome, gene transcription, as well as the function of long noncoding RNAs," said seminar host Anton Jetten, Ph.D., deputy chief of the NIEHS Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory. The methods Jetten referred to are known as Assay for Transposase-Accessible Chromatin using sequencing (ATAC-seq) and Chromatin Isolation by RNA purification (ChIRP-seq).
Chang is the Virginia and D. K. Ludwig Professor of Cancer Genomics and Professor of Dermatology and of Genetics at Stanford University. His research takes Martin Rodbell’s research of signal amplification one step further by focusing on the system that transfers transient signals to long-lasting gene memory — the field of epigenetics.
He said it all started after completion of the Human Genome project, when scientists found a large number of RNA transcripts that looked like messenger RNAs. They were not. Some of these transcripts had recognizable domains, which suggested they coded for protein function, but the others, the lncRNAs, did not appear to have a function.
"My lab has tried to determine whether RNAs are involved in disease processes, characterize their function on a molecular level, and use new technologies to figure out mechanism of action," Chang said.
Following the seminar, NIEHS Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D., presented Chang with the Rodbell award.