Boudreau Lab to improve mRNA measurement methods

Ryan Boudreau, PhD, associate professor in Cardiovascular Medicine, received a two-year $200,000 Innovative Project Award (IPA) from the American Heart Association. The project aims to improve methods for examining gene expression changes in heart disease, and the work will largely be spearheaded by Jared McLendon, PhD, a senior post-doctoral research fellow in the Boudreau Lab who contributed significantly to the grant application.

Knowing when and where genes are expressed throughout our cells and bodies is critical to our understanding of normal biology and disease. Ribosome profiling, also known as Ribo-seq, tracks when and where ribosomes translate mRNAs into proteins. Although this method is powerful, Ribo-seq experiments are expensive and technically difficult, making them virtually inaccessible for most research labs. Typically, researchers infer gene and protein expression by measuring mRNAs; however, levels of mRNAs and their encoded proteins can differ by more than 50%. Boudreau and McLendon aim to improve and expedite Ribo-seq, focusing on its application in cardiac cells.

“Innovative methods are needed to accurately measure the diverse layers of cardiac gene expression to understand the complex regulatory mechanisms involved and their contribution to disease,” Boudreau said.

Boudreau plans to use the funds from his IPA to develop two innovative approaches that would bypass problematic steps in current Ribo-seq protocols. These methods will make ribosome tracking more accessible to many research labs.

“If successful, this work has potential to revolutionize cardiovascular research by creating a simple, superior alternative to the current Ribo-seq approach at a fraction of the cost,” Boudreau said.

Boudreau believes these new methods could lead the way to better understanding other aspects of cardiac gene regulation such as DNA-protein and mRNA-protein interactions.

“Overall, our work will provide critical resources to advance our understanding of cardiac gene and mRNA regulation and help to clarify their relevance to heart disease,” Boudreau said.

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