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RNA Biology and Plasticity

Our research is focused on the 98.5% of the human genome that does not code for proteins, which we have shown is not ‘junk’ as previously thought, but rather specifies an extensive RNA-based regulatory system controlling our development.

Surprisingly, the human genome contains only about 20,000 protein-coding genes, similar in number and with largely similar functions as those in other animals, including simple worms and sponges. On the other hand, the extent of non-protein-coding DNA increases with increasing developmental and cognitive complexity. Moreover the vast majority of these sequences are dynamically transcribed to produce a previously hidden world of different classes of small and large non-protein-coding RNAs that show precise expression patterns and subcellular locations.

The functions of these RNAs are varied but recent evidence suggests that their main function is to guide chromatin-modifying complexes to their sites of action and thereby modulate chromatin structure and gene expression, to specify the architectural trajectories of development. Moreover, this system is also plastic, likely in response to environmental signals, via RNA editing and modification, as well as retrotransposition, which we believe is the molecular basis of learning and memory.

Our current research priorities are to characterise the expression and function of these RNAs in normal development and brain function, as well as in cancer and neurological diseases. We are using advanced sequencing, bioinformatics, imaging and molecular genetic technologies to determine structure-function relationships in regulatory RNAs, the range and role of RNA editing and modifications, and the biological role of particular RNAs in different tissues and regions of the brain.

In the News

John Mattick: Let’s invest in the scientists looking over our horizon - Jul 17, 2017
Breakthrough in reptile temperature sex-swap research - Jun 15, 2017
John Mattick: Whole genome sequencing is medicine’s Snowy Scheme - Apr 13, 2017
Garvan and Deakin University join forces to accelerate precision medicine through machine learning - Mar 28, 2017
New St Vincent’s facility brings clinical genomics to patients on its Darlinghurst campus - Oct 26, 2016
Navigating the human genome with Sequins - Aug 09, 2016
PARIS: detecting RNA structure in living cells - May 20, 2016
Professors Mattick and Eisman inducted into Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences - Apr 07, 2015
Professor John Mattick joins Council of Australian Academy of Science - Nov 13, 2014
Daniel Hesselson wins 2014 Young Garvan Award - Jul 21, 2014
2014 St Vincent's Precinct Three Minute Thesis Competition - Jun 12, 2014
Professor John Mattick will receive 2014 Ernst W. Bertner Memorial Award - Apr 23, 2014
NHMRC Recognises John Mattick, John Shine and Peter Wills - Jan 14, 2014
Garvan receives $15.5 million in NHMRC funding round - Oct 25, 2013
Garvan Institute receives grant to research role of long non-coding RNAs in Parkinson’s disease - Oct 02, 2013
Dr Tim Mercer wins 2013 Young Garvan Award - Jul 16, 2013
New insight into the human genome through the lens of evolution - Jul 12, 2013
The genome’s 3D structure shapes how genes are expressed - Jun 24, 2013
The connection between faulty neural activation and schizophrenia - Apr 30, 2013
Professor John Mattick wins prestigious HUGO Chen Award - Mar 12, 2012
Garvan announces appointment of next Executive Director - Sep 05, 2011

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