Since grade school you have been taught that the process of protein synthesis involves the ribosome reading the mRNA in 3 base codons. Emerging research shows that exception to this rule plays a critical role in controlling gene expression. Structured pieces of RNA can 'program' ribosome to slip on mRNAs producing different proteins.

Over the past decade, the Dr. Jonathan Dinman laboratory at University of Maryland, College Park has established that programed -1 ribosomal frameshifting (-1 PRF) is a molecular mechanism that is used to control the expression of approximately 10% of the genes in higher organisms. This literally translates into thousands of candidate sequences per organism. For example, our computational methods estimate that there are 1,943 high probability -1 PRF signals in the human genome alone. We have also recently identified links between defects affecting -1 PRF and a class of human diseases called “ribosomopathies”. These are largely congenital diseases with defects in ribosomal proteins and/or biogenesis factors e.g. Diamond-Blackfan Anemia (DBA), 5q- syndrome, Schwachman-Diamond syndrome (SDS) and Treacher Collins syndrome (TCS), X-linked dyskeratosis congenita (X-DC) etc.

Because of the need to stringently establish this new paradigm, our research to this point has focused on a few, very specific RNA sequences elements. Now that these ideas have gained general acceptance, it is time to expand the scope of our studies by testing and validating as many functional PRF signals as possible. We intend to follow up with questions regarding the biological and biomedical significance of -1 PRF. While cloning and assaying of each candidate sequence in mammalian cell culture represents the best high throughput approach, it is labor intensive. We propose to capitalize on the FIRE program as a multiplier of labor and time toward this end.

This is where you come in: we will provide all the tools and training that is needed to clone and test human mRNA sequences for their ability to frameshifting. Students are trained in molecular biology, cloning, sequencing, cell culture and statistical data analysis. Though no research outcome is ever guaranteed, it is our goal that the data collected in this research stream will be published with the names of all participating students listed as authors.

What have we achieved?
  • Over 40 sequences from human genes cloned.
  • Over 35 functional -1 PRF sequences validated in 30 human genes.
  • These genes are associated with diseases including cancer, anemias, immune signaling and other congenital and acquired syndromes.
  • Potential multi-collaborative opportunities and advanced honors research
  • Research paper in progress.
  • First-Year Spring Semester Course:
    FIRE153 - FIRE COURSE 2: Found in Translation
    (3 credits, General Education Distributive Studies, Natural Sciences)
    Second-Year Fall Semester Course:
    FIRE253 - FIRE COURSE 3: Found in Translation
    (3 credits, General Education Scholarship in Practice)

    Please visit the Stream Website

    2017 Found In Translation Innovation & Research Stream

    2016 Found In Translation Innovation & Research Stream

    2015 Found In Translation Innovation & Research Stream

    Faculty Leader
    Dr. Jonathan Dinman

    Research Educator
    Vivek Advani