Control over gene expression is necessary to ensure the right thing happen in the right cells at the right time.
Precise control over gene expression is especially important for oocytes, which must remain in a quiescent state for years to decades. During this time, the entire genetic program that will eventually be used to develop a fully functioning organism is kept 'frozen', but still primed and ready. Once fertilized, these oocytes must rapidly initiate a complex and coordinated pattern of gene expression that will turn on and off the sections of DNA that are necessary to correctly mature a zygote. Gene expression is disturbed with aging. Some researchers believe that over the course of an oocyte's extended quiescence, the machinery responsible for coordinating this program ages, breaks down, and leads to diminished fertility.
GCRLE Grantee projects
Dr Marco Conti: Translation is the step of gene expression where mRNA- the messenger molecule which carries the genetic information in DNA- is converted (translated) into proteins. Before fertilization, many mRNAs lie ready to rapidly initiate the maturation process. Dr Conti's lab is investigating whether these molecules are compromised in older eggs.
Dr Arjumand Ghazi: The process of alternative splicing, where different mRNA molecules are generated from the same gene, underlies the staggering diversity of proteins seen in our cells. It is important in most animals; in humans up to 90% of genes are thought to undergo alternative splicing. However, errors during alternative splicing increase with aging. Dr Ghazi's lab believes this is connected to egg viability and age at menopause and are studying one protein's role in alternative splicing during aging.