RNA modifications, such as m6A, m1A, inosine (I), m5C, and pseudouridine (Ψ) are widely distributed within the transcriptome, but their roles in neuronal function are largely unknown. The Weng Lab aims to explore the scope and mechanisms underlying dynamic RNA epigenetic regulation in the adult nervous system that could be exploited therapeutically for neural repair and neurological disorders. Three primary research areas of our laboratory are:
RNA COMPARTMENTALIZATION AND REGENERATIVE RESPONSES: Spatiotemporal gene expression varies in cell types and specifies differential physiological and injury responses. However, how the transcriptome is compartmentalized in subcellular domains (soma vs. neurite) remains unclear. Our laboratory aims to systematically assess the role of RNA modifications in RNA trafficking and examine how they control differential regenerative capacity in diverse neuronal cell types.
ABERRANT RNA MODIFICATIONS IN NEUROLOGICAL DISEASES: RNA modifications are actively being investigated in dividing cells. However, little is known about how impairments in these modifications lead to malfunction in post-mitotic neurons such as in pathological or injury conditions. Our research aims to advance our understanding of the role of RNA epigenetics in pathogenesis of neurological disorders and facilitate identification of therapeutic drug targets in the future.
EPIGENETIC AND EPITRANSCRIPTOMIC REGULATION IN NEUROPROTECTION AND SURVIVAL: Cell death following neuronal injury is a primary cause of subsequent morbidity and mortality. There is now compelling evidence indicating that subtypes of neurons can have distinct injury response and survive after the insults. Our laboratory aims to examine the epigenetic and epitranscriptomic regulation in these complex mechanisms and harness the signaling to elicit neuroprotection.