Group Leader

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Dr. Valérie Hilgers
Group Leader

Lab Valérie Hilgers

Selected Publications

1.
Hilgers V (2015)
Alternative polyadenylation coupled to transcription initiation: Insights from ELAV-mediated 3’ UTR extension
2.
Oktaba K, Zhang W, Lotz TS, Jun DJ, Lemke SB, Ng SP, Esposito E, Levine M*, Hilgers V* (2015)
ELAV links paused Pol II to alternative polyadenylation in the Drosophila nervous system
3.
Hilgers V, Lemke SB, Levine M (2012)
ELAV mediates 3’ UTR extension in the Drosophila nervous system
4.
Hilgers V, Perry MW, Hendrix D, Stark A, Levine M, Haley B (2011)
Neural-specific elongation of 3’ UTRs during Drosophila development
5.
Hilgers V, Bushati N, Cohen SM (2010)
Drosophila microRNAs 263a/b confer robustness during development by protecting nascent sense organs from apoptosis

Laboratory Valérie Hilgers

Laboratory Valérie Hilgers

Neurons are uniquely complex cells whose function relies heavily on gene regulatory mechanisms such as alternative splicing, alternative polyadenylation, and post-transcriptional processes. Although relatively little is known about how these mechanisms control neuronal development and function, the importance of RNA-directed regulation in the brain is exemplified by its implication in neurological diseases. Our long-term goal is to gain a better understanding of the regulatory mechanisms that drive neural development and disease.

We focus on a particularly distinctive RNA processing mechanism: the lengthening of the 3’ UTRs in hundreds of mRNAs during embryonic development, which occurs exclusively in neurons, ‘3’ UTR extension’. This process causes specific mRNAs to harbor extraordinarily long 3’ UTRs. Interestingly, extended mRNAs encode crucial developmental regulators, in particular, RNA-binding proteins.

<p><strong>Alternative 3’ processing specifically in the nervous system.</strong></p>
<p>Left: RNA-Seq data illustrate the progressive 3’ UTR extension that occurs during embryonic development. Right: Confocal imaging of mRNAs carrying short and long 3’ UTRs shows neuron-specific expression of the extended 3’ UTR. Neurons are marked with the protein ELAV. Hundreds of genes are subjected to 3’ UTR extension. In this figure, brain tumor (brat) is shown as an example.</p> Zoom Image

Alternative 3’ processing specifically in the nervous system.

Left: RNA-Seq data illustrate the progressive 3’ UTR extension that occurs during embryonic development. Right: Confocal imaging of mRNAs carrying short and long 3’ UTRs shows neuron-specific expression of the extended 3’ UTR. Neurons are marked with the protein ELAV. Hundreds of genes are subjected to 3’ UTR extension. In this figure, brain tumor (brat) is shown as an example.

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Neuron-specific 3’ UTR extension also occurs in humans; its function is unknown. Using Drosophila as a model system, we study the molecular mechanisms underlying neuron-specific RNA processing. We also aim to understand how alternative RNA processing affects neuronal development and function.

 
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