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Weill Cornell Researchers Enhance Protein Translation

Friday, September 30, 2016

Think of protein synthesis as a well-oiled machine: DNA is transcribed into an RNA (mRNA) molecule which then must be translated to produce a protein. But, like all machines, every now and then a part fails to function. In protein synthesis, when the translation process does not occur successfully, the effects can be profound. An extensive amount of infections and diseases can be traced back to this phase of the process, including cancer.

Researchers in the Jaffrey Lab at Weill Cornell Medicine who study the protein synthesis process in intricate detail are interested in developing therapeutic options. By discovering mRNA molecules that contain a modified nucleotide in the 5’ untranslated region (5’ UTR) can bypass the normal way cells translate RNA, they have enabled ways to enhance protein translation. A methylated adenosine nucleotide m⁶A in 5’UTR functions like a beacon signaling the protein translation system to initiate translation without the need of the regular translation signals such as a 5’ cap on the mRNA. By examining the 5’ UTR, they deepened the current understanding of the cap-independent manner of translation. As such, they uncovered the ability of m⁶A to function as an alternative to the 5’ cap to stimulate mRNA translation.

Through such work, Drs. Samie Jaffrey and Kate Meyer successfully developed methods and kits to produce mRNAs containing methylated adenosine residues in the 5’ UTR. Additionally, these methods allow the methylated RNAs to enhance translation/protein yields for basic research, gene therapy applications, and treating stress/disease states.

With this newly developed technology, the “machine” (protein synthesis) is better “oiled” to operate at maximum capacity. These methods provide potential applications to enhance protein yields in vitro, increase protein production for gene therapy, and enhance mRNA translation for disease treatment. In sum, this expanded understanding enables the development of novel therapeutics and harbors the potential to reduce the impact of disease conditions.

For a detailed technology overview, please visit For more information or licensing opportunities, please contact Dan Antson, Technology Licensing Officer, via  

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