Macromolecular Structure Group
mRNA Stability & Translation
Traci Hall, Ph.D.
The Macromolecular Structure Group, led by Dr. Traci M.T. Hall, Ph.D., studies mechanisms of post-transcriptional gene regulation to understand how RNA regulatory pathways operate in stem cell biology, embryonic development, and response to environmental stimuli. The Hall lab conducts fundamental research, integrating molecular, biochemical, and structural approaches to understand the function of macromolecules in different biological systems. Much of our lab’s research begins with a discovery phase of crystal structure determination. In-depth analysis then guides functional studies in vitro and in vivo.
A long-term goal is to define the relationship between structure, sequence specificity, and gene regulatory networks of classical Pumilio/fem-3 mRNA binding factor (PUF) proteins. Recent results provide new molecular mechanisms for refining PUF-mediated gene regulatory networks. Future work includes translating PUF protein biology to new biological models, such as germline stem cells, and studying other factors in PUF regulatory pathways.
The Hall lab is also characterizing two new PUF-like protein families that function in ribosome biogenesis. They have shown that these families bind to structured RNA targets, unlike classical PUF proteins that recognize single-stranded RNA sequences, and direct pre-rRNA processing to produce functional ribosomes. Additional projects examine the specificity of RNA target recognition by other RNA regulatory proteins. The role of these pathways in environmental response has not been extensively explored, providing the opportunity to lay the groundwork for future understanding.
Major areas of research:
- Linking understanding of structure and biological function of RNA regulatory proteins
- Determining how proteins recognize and regulate RNA targets
- Examining how specificity defines networks of gene regulation
- Designing sequence-specific RNA-binding proteins
- Using structure determination, biochemistry, and cell biology to define the relationship between structure, specificity, and gene regulatory networks of classical PUF proteins and other RNA regulatory proteins.
- Characterizing new PUF-like proteins that function in ribosome biogenesis to understand their molecular mechanisms in pre-rRNA processing.
- Using the human Pumilio1 RNA-binding domain as a template, creating designed RNA-binding proteins that recognize specific RNA sequences and can be used as research tools.
Dr. Traci Hall earned her B.S. in biochemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles, and her Ph.D. in pharmacology and molecular sciences from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She was an American Association for the Advancement of Science Diplomacy Fellow with the U.S. Agency for International Development and a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Daniel J. Leahy at Johns Hopkins before joining the NIEHS in 1998. She served as acting Lab Chief for the NIEHS Laboratory of Structural Biology from 2012–2014.