Nonsense and quality control wins $US500,000

International Congress of Genetics

mRNA ‘quality control’ pioneers Allan Jacobson and Lynne Maquat receive Gruber Genetics Prize in Melbourne

Every plant, every animal, every human depends on mRNA to accurately translate the DNA of their genetic code into proteins, the building blocks of life.

Right now, millions of mRNA molecules are at work in our bodies, in a complex series of molecular dances. Mistakes are made, leading to potentially toxic proteins which can inhibit the normal functioning of cells and normal human development.

The body’s quality control of this process was identified and described by Lynne Maquat and Allan Jacobson in the 1980s and 90s. They showed how our cells destroy faulty mRNA molecules. They demonstrated that messenger RNA is much more than a passive carrier of genetic code. It plays a central role in gene regulation.

They named this quality control process nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD).

Their work informed our understanding of fundamental life processes, and enables the use of mRNA as a tool today in vaccines and medicines. They have each gone on to use it as a target for therapeutics.

Maquat’s lab is investigating the role of NMD in, and treatments for, Fragile X syndrome, the commonest single gene cause of intellectual disability and autism.

Jacobson founded a company that is now trialling treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

/Public Release.