Less than 3 per cent of the genomic information encoded in the human DNA sequence is used to generate the RNA biomolecules that are subsequently translated into proteins that mediate cellular functions. But it is the non-coding genome that holds most of the human genomic sequence. Until recently, it has been considered to have no functional importance, and its role in human health and disease has remained largely unknown.
As Canada Research Chair in RNA Bioinformatics and Genomics, Dr. Athanasios Zovoilis is studying a class of non-coding RNAs called SINE RNAs. Using next-generation sequencing, bioinformatics, cell assays and live mouse models, he and his research team have demonstrated that SINE RNAs play a central role in responding to cellular stress and neurotoxicity. Now, they aim to dissect the mechanisms underlying the function of SINE RNAs. Exploring the role of these RNAs in brain cells during cell stress will help us to better understand their function and importance in aging-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.