Haas Scholars

Alison Smith

Molecular Characterization of a piRNA Biogenesis Protein

RNA interference (RNAi) is a rapidly expanding field of research that promises to yield a better understanding of how cells regulate their environments through RNAi mediated gene silencing pathways. Harnessing RNAis transformative properties may prove to be a powerful methodology for developing effective, cell-specific drugs, thus reducing harm and unwanted side effects. Alison’s project involves reconstituting the piRNA biogenesis machinery in vitro; specifically, elucidating the role of the protein, Squash. piRNAs are a recently discovered class of small regulatory RNAs that are thought to facilitate transposon silencing through RNAi, thereby protecting the genome from the deleterious effects of insertional mutagenesis, some of which have been implicated in cancer cell life cycles. Understanding these key mechanisms of gene regulation could radically transform the treatment of many genetically-linked diseases.

  • Major: Chemical Biology, Dance & Performance Studies (minor)
  • Mentor: Professor Jennifer Doudna