MDI Biological Laboratory

Data Science Team Explores New Protein Functions

  • November 17, 2023

Data Science Core Director Joel Graber, Ph.D., and several of his MDI Bio Lab Core team are co-authors of a new publication in Genetics that details previously undescribed molecular and genetic functions of a protein in yeast that is conserved in humans.

Known for a role in the post-transcriptional processing of RNA transcripts, the protein PcF11 now appears to play a role in activating stress-response pathways as well. The experiment, published this month in Genetics, was led by Tufts University researcher Claire Moore, Ph.D., with data-crunching assistance from Graber, two former core analysts, Christian Wilson and Nathaniel Maki, as well as former summer research fellow Peter Benson.

“What’s really exciting about this is that it highlights an unknown role for this gene, and a role that emphasizes the interconnected nature of the different steps required to take a gene from its encoding in DNA, through expression as RNA, and finally to a protein,” Graber said.

“Yeast is a great system for this work, since despite their evolutionary separation, yeast and humans carry out these fundamental processes in much the same manner with highly similar proteins,” Graber added.  “Studies from the last 20 years have demonstrated the importance of these genes and their multiple functions in both  organism development and diseases such as cancer.”

“This was a long-term project, spread over almost 10 years that included three different experiments with related but distinct data types.  It was an enjoyable challenge to integrate these data into a coherent analysis, and as such, it provided a great training project for Peter — an MDI High School graduate who’s now at Northeastern University in Boston, where he is a student in Data Science and Analysis.”