The 2012 Lectures in Biology: A WORLD OF RNAs
“DNA makes RNA, RNA makes proteins, proteins make us” is the message we have come to accept as the central dogma of biology. The first two parts of this message are correct when used to outline those metabolic events, (transcription and translation), that process the genetic information in a cell. But that part addresses only a limited segment of the overall cellular metabolic activities which, “weaved” with many more, and in a regulated fashion, lead to the development of the organism.
All the phenotypic characteristics of an organism that can ultimately be linked to the specific utilization of the embedded genetic instructions in its cells are end products of metabolism. The cellular metabolism comprises a complex network of chemical reactions under biologically compatible conditions. These chemical transformations are made possible by the actions of biological catalysts, the enzymes. Up to a few years ago, it was universally accepted that all enzymatic activities emanated exclusively from proteins. Under this belief we used to preach another dogma: all enzymes are proteins, but not all proteins are enzymes.
The first part of the latter dogma is clearly no longer true. However, although the majority of the well studied biological catalysts are indeed proteins, a new class of biocatalysts has emerged, and its numbers are growing, i.e., catalytic RNAs. They are members of a larger family of non protein-coding RNAs which also include RNA molecules that contribute to the formation of biological structures and even large organelles, and others that serve as regulators of gene expression.
It is this world of RNAs that the 2012 Onassis Lecture Series will explore. The special topics of the presentations will elucidate: the organization and attribution of the catalytic properties of the ribosome; the role of RNA in the function and control of the telomerase activity of cells; the ever-increasing world of micro RNAs and their participation in the regulation of a multitude of cellular process, including immunity and cancer.
It may not be an exaggeration to expect that, as we accumulate more information, the world of RNAs may become just as prominent in the overall cellular metabolism, as the world of proteins, and it will also include the long, non coding RNAs serving a scaffolds of structure-organizing centers with a dynamic role in cellular function.
The Region of Crete / Regional Development Fund of Crete (RDFC) is providing financial support to FORTH to partially cover its expenses in organizing and implementing the events of the Onassis 2012 Lecture Series
Venkatraman (Venki) Ramakrishnan
Medical Research Council, Cambridge, UK
Nobel Prize (2009) in Chemistry
Group Leader, Telomere Biology Laboratory, Cancer Research, London Research Institute, UK
Mark A. Lindsay
Professor, Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, University of Bath, Bath, UK
Professor, School of Life Sciences, Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, Ecole Polytechnique, Federale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
Professor, Director, Max Planck Insitute for Biophysical Chemistry, Gottingen, Germany
Professor, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Cambridge, Boston, USA
Professor, Director, Institut de Biologie Moleculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS, Strasburg, France
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