RNA editing is a seemingly perfect tool to fine-tune protein function. By making directed point mutations in mRNA, the ways in which it can change protein structure are almost endless. The paradox is that in most organisms it is almost never used for this purpose. For example, there are only ~30 recoding RNA editing sites conserved in mammals. There are slightly more in fruit flies, but still only a tiny fraction of the transcriptome contains a recoding site. Cephalopods are different. There are tens of thousands of conserved recoding sites across the coleoids. Many alter protein function and are under selection. What then makes cephalopod RNA editing different. In my lab we are interested in understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of high-level RNA editing in cephalopods, how individual editing sites affect neurophysiology, how RNA editing is influenced by environmental factors, and how editing helps shape the evolution of these remarkable animals.

This project is being conducted in collaboration with Dr Eli Eisenberg at Tel Aviv University, Israel.

massive editing in squid
Abundant A-to-G modifications when comparing the squid brain transcriptome with genomic DNA. Only A-to-G modifications are overrepresented, and only in squid. Taken from Alon et al. eLife 2015.