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Stress granules

Our Research

The Shav-Tal Lab: Illuminating the Secrets of Life

Welcome to our lab, where science meets wonder, and the microscopic becomes a macro-adventure. Step into the vibrant world of molecular marvels and cellular symphonies at the Shav-Tal Lab. We're explorers of the microscopic and detectives of RNA. Our mission is to unravel the intricate dances of RNA molecules in living cells. It's like discovering the script and actors behind a captivating play, only our stage is the single molecule, the single gene, and the single cell. Using time-lapse fluorescent microscopy and kinetic analysis, we're able to capture the awe-inspiring choreography of life as it unfolds in real-time.

We are interested in:

Gene Expression and Cancer

We have embarked on an exciting journey into the heart of gene expression dynamics. Our approach is akin to shining a spotlight on the intricate mechanisms of gene regulation, enabling us to witness the story of genes, mRNAs, and proteins in real-time. To do this, we've harnessed the power of various fluorescent tags and gene editing to mark mRNAs and proteins within their endogenous contexts. We've generated specialized cell systems that allow us to dissect the intricate world of gene expression and mRNA transcription, unveiling their hidden secrets.

Our unique capability allows us to peer into the inner workings of single genes within living cells, providing a front-row seat to the unfolding drama of gene action. We have utilized this approach to closely monitor the impact of promoter regions and transcription factors on the behaviour of genes in living cells, shedding light on the over-expression pathways found in cancerous cells. We have closely tracked the transmission of signals from the cytoplasm to the nucleus (promoter) and explored how factors participating in signal transduction pathways shape the landscape of gene expression.

In the world of transcription, the journey of pre-mRNA involves a series of intricate processing events, including capping, splicing, and polyadenylation. These processes occur in synchrony with transcription itself, raising questions about their influence on transcription kinetics. To address these questions, we delve into the real-time kinetics of RNA processing using cutting-edge live cell imaging techniques. In addition, we are conducting research into nuclear long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), some that are highly expressed in certain cancer cells, with a primary focus on their functions and specific locations within the nucleus of mammalian cells.

RNA Export

To gain insights into the dissemination of genetic information from the cell nucleus to the cytoplasm, it is crucial to elucidate the processes governing mRNA mobility within cells. Our research focuses on tracking the intricate movements of RNAs, mRNAs and lncRNAs, as they traverse the nucleoplasm and exit the nucleus in live cellular environments. We are particularly intrigued by the examination of various factors that regulate these export pathways in the nucleoplasm and at the nuclear pore complex. We are also interested in how single mRNAs are organized and structured within the cells. To explore these elements, we employ inhibitors and techniques for reducing the activity of specific components believed to be essential for these processes. Our investigation involves the utilization of single molecule methodologies, enabling us to quantitatively measure the interactions of individual molecules as they pass through the nuclear pore complex. Additionally, we delve into the dynamics of mRNA export when cells are exposed to stressful conditions, further enhancing our understanding of these critical cellular processes.

Nuclear and Cytoplasmic Granules

One of our key areas of exploration is the phenomenon of phase separation within nuclear and cytoplasmic structures. Phase separation is when certain components gather to form distinct liquid-like or gel-like compartments within the cytoplasm and nucleus. These compartments play a crucial role in the organization and regulation of various cellular processes. The structures we are interested in are termed: nuclear speckles in the nucleus, and stress granules or P bodies in the cytoplasm. We are particularly interested in the dynamic interplay of RNAs and RNA-binding proteins within these compartments. These interactions influence gene expression, mRNA processing, and response to cellular stress, such as administration of chemotherapies, heat shock or infection by viruses. Our research involves a close examination of the complex RNA-RNA and RNA-protein networks within these structures. We are dedicated to understanding how these interactions impact cellular function, both in normal conditions and under different types of stress. By studying the dynamics of these nuclear bodies, we aim to uncover the role they play in cellular homeostasis and their potential involvement in diseases and disorders.

Nuclear speckles
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