CompLifeSci Seminar

    Place: Alhopuro Auditorium, Medisiina D, Kiinamyllynkatu 10

    Coffee at 13:45



    Dr. Noora Kotaja, Institute of Biomedicine, University of Turku:

    RNA regulation in male germ cells: implications for male fertility and epigenetic inheritance


    Prof. Daniel Abankwa, Cancer Cell Biology and Drug Discovery, Life Sciences Research Unit, University of Luxembourg:

    Ras isoform selective drug development approaches


    About the speakers

    Noora Kotaja is an Associate Professor of Molecular Medicine at the Institute of Biomedicine, University of Turku, Finland. She obtained PhD in Biomedicine at the University of Helsinki under supervision of Profs. Olli Jänne and Jorma Palvimo. She did her postdoctoral training at the Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, Strasbourg, France, in the research group of Dr. Paolo Sassone-Corsi on germ cell-specific regulation of gene expression. In 2006, she returned back in Finland to establish her own research group at the University of Turku, where she received first an Academy Research Fellow post from the Academy of Finland, followed by a tenure track Professor position in 2012. Her scientific achievements have been recognized by L’Oreal Finland for Women in Science award in 2006, Unto Uotila award form the Finnish Endrocrine Society in 2008 and Young Researcher award from the International Netwolrk of Young Researchers in Male Fertiliy in 2011 and Young Andrologist award from the International Society of Andrology in 2013.

    Noora Kotaja’s research focuses on the mechanisms of spermatogenesis and germline-mediated epigenetic inheritance. In particular, her research group is interested in the epigenetic and posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression in meiotic and post-meiotic male germ cells, and the role of large germ cell-specific ribonucleoprotein granules (germ granules) in the control of germ cell’s transcriptome. The research in the Kotaja group combines experimental animal studies with human cohort studies to elucidate key epigenetic processes required for the production of fertile spermatozoa and correct transgenerational transmission of epigenetic information. The research may provide important novel insights into the development of diagnosis, treatment and prevention strategies for male infertility. Importantly, the research will also clarify the mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance, which could help us to understand and potentially prevent the transmission of acquired diseases such as metabolic disorders.

    Selected publications:

    1. Pandey RR, Homolka D, Olotu O, Sachidanandam R, Kotaja N, Pillai RS. Exonuclease Domain-Containing 1 Enhances MIWI2 piRNA Biogenesis via Its Interaction with TDRD12. Cell Rep. 2018 24:3423-3432.e4.
    2. Lehtiniemi T, Kotaja N. Germ granule-mediated RNA regulation in male germ cells. Reproduction. 2018 Feb;155(2):R77-R91.
    3. Matteo Da Ros, Tiina Lehtiniemi, Opeyemi Olotu, Daniel Fischer, Fu-Ping Zhang, Helena Vihinen, Eija Jokitalo, Anu Sironen, Jorma Toppari, Noora Kotaja. FYCO1 and autophagy control the integrity of the haploid male germ cell-specific RNP granules. Autophagy. 2017 Feb;13(2):302-321.
    4. Korhonen HM, Yadav RP, Da Ros M, Chalmel F, Zimmermann C, Toppari J, Nef S, Kotaja N. DICER Regulates the Formation and Maintenance of Cell-Cell Junctions in the Mouse Seminiferous Epithelium. Biol Reprod. 2015 Dec;93(6):139.
    5. Goh WS, Falciatori I, Tam OH, Burgess R, Meikar O, Kotaja N, Hammell M, Hannon GJ. piRNA-directed cleavage of meiotic transcripts regulates spermatogenesis. Genes Dev. 2015 May 15;29(10):1032-44.
    6. Da Ros M, Hirvonen N, Olotu O, Toppari J, Kotaja N. Retromer vesicles interact with RNA granules in haploid male germ cells. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2015 Feb 5;401:73-83.
    7. Meikar O, Vagin VV, Chalmel F, Sõstar K, Lardenois A, Hammell M, Jin Y, Da Ros M, Wasik KA, Toppari J, Hannon GJ, Kotaja N. An atlas of chromatoid body components. RNA. 2014 Apr;20(4):483-95.
    8. Kotaja N, Sassone-Corsi P. The chromatoid body: a germ-cell-specific RNA-processing centre. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 8(1):85-90, 2007.
    9. Kotaja N, Kimmins S, Brancorsini S, Hentsch D, Vonesch JL, Davidson I, Parvinen M, Sassone-Corsi P. Preparation, isolation and characterization of stage-specific spermatogenic cells for cellular and molecular analysis. Nat Methods 1(3):249-54, 2004.

    Daniel Abankwa studied chemistry in Göttingen (Germany), and completed his PhD in molecular neurobiology in Düsseldorf (Germany). In 2002, he moved as a postdoc to the EPFL in Switzerland, before he started working on the oncogene RAS with Prof. John Hancock at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience of the University of Queensland (Australia) in 2006. He then became junior group leader with Prof. Kirill Alexandrov at the same institute. In 2010, Daniel moved as adjunct professor to the Turku Centre for Biotechnology (Finland), where he established a prolific research group, with publications e.g. in eLife and Oncogene. Since 2017 he is full professor at the University of Luxembourg.

    Daniel Abankwa’s group aims at understanding RAS isoform specificity, drug discovery in particular against cancer stem cells, as well as assay development. They utilize an array of methods, ranging from classical molecular cell biology, computational modelling, quantitative fluorescence microscopy (FRAP, FRET), to superresolution STED-nanoscopy.

    Selected recent publications

    1. Buehler U, Schulenburg K, Yurugi H, Šolman M, Abankwa D, Ulges A, Tenzer S, Bopp T, Thiede B, Zipp F, Rajalingam K. Targeting prohibitins at the cell surface prevents Th17-mediated autoimmunity. EMBO J. 2018 Aug 15;37(16). pii: e99429.
    2. I MD Posada, Lectez B, Sharma M, Oetken-Lindholm C, Yetukuri L, Zhou Y, Aittokallio T, Abankwa D Rapalogs can promote cancer cell stemness in vitro in a Galectin-1 and H-ras-dependent manner Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 21;7(1):8944.
    3. Posada IMD, Lectez B, Sharma M, Oetken-Lindholm C, Yetukuri L, Zhou Y, Aittokallio T, Abankwa D. Rapalogs can promote cancer cell stemness in vitro in a Galectin-1 and H-ras-dependent manner. Oncotarget. 2017;8(27):44550-44566.
    4. Najumudeen AK, Jaiswal A, Lectez B, Oetken-Lindholm C, Guzmán C, Siljamäki E, Posada IM, Lacey E, Aittokallio T, Abankwa D. Cancer stem cell drugs target K-ras signaling in a stemness context. Oncogene. 2016 Oct 6;35(40):5248-5262.
    5. Šolman M, Ligabue A, Blaževitš O, Jaiswal A, Zhou Y, Liang H, Lectez B, Kopra K, Guzmán C, Härmä H, Hancock JF, Aittokallio T, Abankwa D. Specific cancer-associated mutations in the switch III region of Ras increase tumorigenicity by nanocluster augmentation. Elife. 2015;4:e08905.
    6. Brooks AJ, Dai W, O’Mara ML, Abankwa D, Chhabra Y, Pelekanos RA, Gardon O, Tunny KA, Blucher KM, Morton CJ, Parker MW, Sierecki E, Gambin Y, Gomez GA, Alexandrov K, Wilson IA, Doxastakis M, Mark AE, Waters MJ. Mechanism of activation of protein kinase JAK2 by the growth hormone receptor. Science. 2014 May 16;344(6185):1249783.