On December 5, 2012, Brown-MBL Graduate Student, Anupriya Dutta, successfully defended her PhD dissertation, ‘Recognizing microRNAs (miRNAs) in Microinvertebrates and Confirming their Absence.’
Bdelloid rotifers are aquatic microinvertebrates that have several outstanding qualities among metazoans. They make up the only ancient asexual animal lineage. Bdelloid rotifers are also incredibly robust to DNA damage, which is a necessary adaptation for life in desiccation-prone environments. During desiccation, they are capable of incorporating foreign DNA into their genome. An investigation of a class of noncoding small RNAs, called microRNAs (miRNAs), reveals that the unique characteristics of bdelloid rotifers are reflected in their miRNA repertoire. miRNAs are involved in post-transcriptional gene regulation and have been implicated in numerous cellular processes. Some miRNAs are believed to be indispensable due to their integration into many gene regulatory networks. For this reason, many miRNAs are easy to identify across diverse animal phyla. However, the conserved miRNA repertoire of bdelloid rotifers is exceptional in this regard. The surprising miRNA repertoire of bdelloid rotifers not only provides important clues to understanding the asexual evolution of bdelloid rotifers, but also reveals new insights into miRNA evolution in animals.
The Brown-MBL Graduate Program attracts a diverse group of talented and dedicated students from around the world. Some students spend their first years taking courses at Brown and do not make their base at MBL full-time until their second or third year in the program. Other students remain based in Providence for the duration of their studies but work closely with one or more MBL scientists as they pursue their research. Still other students engage in research that requires them to be at the MBL from the start of their studies. Sixteen graduate students currently are enrolled in the program, ten students have graduated from the program with doctorates and four others have left early with a masters degree.