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Dr. Wendy M. Olivas

Assistant Professor
Molecular Biology

Phone: (314) 516-4241
Fax: (314) 516-6233
Department of Biology
University of Missouri St. Louis
One University Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63121-449


Research Interests

The focus of my laboratory is to understand the regulation of gene expression. Multiple processes within the cell mediate the proper control of how much protein is made from each gene at any one time or place. One key aspect of gene expression is the control of mRNA lifespans by regulating the rates of mRNA decay. The decay rates of individual mRNAs in eukaryotic cells can vary by more than two orders of magnitude. Moreover, modulation of mRNA decay rates is an efficient method to rapidly alter gene expression in response to cellular changes. The control elements that mediate specific mRNA decay rates are often found within a particular region of the mRNA called the 3' untranslated region, or UTR. My lab is studying how members of the Puf family of proteins are able to bind 3' UTR elements and differentially regulate the decay rate of several target mRNAs. Puf proteins appear to have a conserved role in stem cell maintenance, cell development, and differentiation, and are found across the eukaryotic kingdom, including humans. We utilize the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as the model organism for our studies because this yeast contains six Puf proteins, providing a unique system for studying differential Puf protein target specificity and regulatory function. In addition, the general pathways of mRNA decay in yeast are well described and multiple lines of evidence suggest that these pathways are conserved among eukaryotes. while genetic manipulations and gene expression analyses are facile. Our analysis of the mechanisms by which the yeast Puf proteins recognize and regulate the stability of their target mRNAs will greatly contribute to our understanding of Puf-mediated control of gene expression in yeast and other eukaryotes, and to the general principles of 3' UTR control of mRNA decay.


B.S. Chemistry, 1992, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, NE

Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 1996,University of

Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE

Postdoctoral Fellow, 1996-2000, Molecular and Cellular Biology,

University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ