Welcome to the Emeson Lab

The research interests of our laboratory focus on the cellular and molec­ular processes under­ly­ing neuronal com­mun­i­ca­tion in nor­mal and patho­phys­i­o­log­ic disease states. Spe­cif­ically, we are examining the molecular mechanisms involved in the editing of RNA transcripts encoding proteins critical for mammalian nervous system function. RNA edit­ing is a post-transcriptional modification in which specific adenosine residues in pre-mes­senger RNAs are converted to inosine (A-to-I editing) by double-strand­ed RNA-spe­cif­ic adeno­sine deaminases (ADARs). As a result of these deamina­tion events, the cod­ing poten­tial of RNAs can be subtly altered to change as little as a single amino acid residue in resultant products to generate protein isoforms with distinct functional proper­ties.

Our current research efforts focus upon the physiological importance of RNA editing for transcripts encoding the 2C-subtype of serotonin receptor (5HT2C), a member of the Shaker-family of voltage-gated potas­sium channels (Kv1.1) and calcium-dependent acti­vat­or protein for secretion 1 (CAPS1), a protein involved in the fusion of synaptic vesicles and dense core sec­re­tory granules. These studies take advantage of heterologous expression systems to assess the func­tion­al differences between protein isoforms encoded by edited and non-edited tran­scripts and subsequently lead to the generation of mutant mouse model systems where we can limit expression to a single protein isoform. For example, mut­ant mice solely expressing the non-edited form of the 5HT2C receptor dem­on­strate def­i­cits in maternal behavior, whereas animals solely expressing the fully-edited iso­form have a num­ber of phenotypic alterations charac­teristic of human Prader-Willi syn­drome. The long-term goal of the proposed research is to understand the mechanism(s) under­ly­ing the regulation of RNA editing and to define how such RNA processing events may con­trib­ute to functional protein diversity and dysfunction in the nervous system.