PhD student - Department of Biomolecular Medicine (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, UGent) & VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology (VIB, UGent) (PI: prof. Sven Eyckerman)
PhD student - OncoRNALab, Center for Medical Genetics (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, UGent) (PI: prof. Pieter Mestdagh)
Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA) exert their functions by interaction with several other biomolecular entities present in the cell. Some act as miRNA ‘sponges’ by binding and therefore controlling specific miRNA levels, others bind and regulate genomic DNA and mRNAs. However, a large set of lncRNAs functions as a modular scaffold for protein complexes. For instance, the melanoma-specific lncRNA SAMMSON interacts with p32, a master regulator of mitochondrial homeostasis and metabolism, which results in increased mitochondrial targeting of p32 and pro-oncogenic function. An increasing number of studies highlight the importance of lncRNA-protein interactions in cancer.
Unfortunately, the study of lncRNA-protein complexes is still in its infancy. In the published methods, lncRNAs are specifically targeted using DNA tiling probes to capture protein complexes. Other approaches that allow the specific capture of lncRNAs involve the insertion of a specific RNA tag sequence in the lncRNA. The latter typically requires the exogenous expression of the lncRNA. All these approaches require drastic manipulations such as lysis to specifically enrich the lncRNA of interest. In my project, I will, therefore, explore the use of CRISPR-Cas to specifically target endogenous and unmodified lncRNAs in order to identify lncRNA-interacting proteins.
In 2015, I obtained a M.Sc. in Biology: Cell and Systems Biology at the UAntwerpen. As a part of my M.Sc. curriculum, I received a FELASA cat. C (Experimenter) certificate. Currently I am a full time doctoral fellow at the VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology and I am supported by a FWO-SB fellowship of the Research Foundation Flanders.