Gina V. Caldas, Ph.D.

Title
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department
Molecular & Cell Biology
Institution
University of California, Berkeley
Address
460 Stanley Hall
MC 3220
City, State, Zip
Worcester, MA 94720-3220
Country
United States
Phone
(510) 664-4209
E-mail
gvcaldas[at]berkeley.edu
Website
http://mcb.berkeley.edu/labs/dernburg/
Research Field
Molecular biology
Award Year
2015
Country Of Origin
Colombia
Mentor Name
Abby Dernburg, Ph.D.

Research

The Mello lab studies how the same systems responsible for silencing genes can sometimes activate them. In the worm C. elegans, as in other organisms, proteins called Argonautes take up small ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules that they use as "bait" to catch and destroy other RNAs-- a process that effectively shuts down or silences the genes that produced the captured RNAs. But one C. elegans Argonaute protein behaves somewhat differently. Although the protein is perfectly capable of chopping up RNAs in a test tube, in the worm, the protein captures RNAs, but does not eliminate them. Instead, this protein appears to protect RNA from destruction by other Argonautes. I will explore how this specific protein performs this paradoxical feat of molecular heroism-- and whether this behavior is somehow linked to the protein's ability to destroy RNAs. Because similar systems of genetic control operate in humans, these results will provide insights into the role such opposing pathways play in human health and disease.