Launching of Pasteur-Weizmann research funds for the study of microbial RNA regulators

Prof. Rotem Sorek and Prof. Pascale Cossart Prof. Rotem Sorek and Prof. Pascale Cossart

Pasteur-Weizmann Council launches a research funds for the study of microbial RNA regulators. A brief history of Pasteur Weizmann Council: on 9 December 1974, Robert Parienti, General Delegate for Europe of the Weizmann Institute, met with the French Minister of Health, Mrs Simone Veil. During this meeting, where the isolation of Israeli researchers was discussed, Mrs Veil put forward the idea of a partnership between Institut Pasteur and the Weizmann Institute for the first time. She assured Robert Parienti of her active support if the idea were approved by both Institut Pasteur and the Weizmann Institute. Several weeks later, André Lwoff visited the Weizmann Institute together with Robert Parienti. It was in the plane to Israel that the idea of officially associating Institut Pasteur and the Weizmann Institute in cancer research was born. The fight against cancer, an indisputable initiative, was to be above all sectarian and political criticism.

This idea was greeted with much enthusiasm from the heads of both Institutes: Michael Sela (Weizmann Institute) and Jacques Monod (Institut Pasteur). With a rare kind of courage in the political climate of the times, Mrs Veil, Minister of Health at the time in France, agreed without hesitation to become Honorary Chairman of the Pasteur-Weizmann Council. Since then, she has spared no effort and has given generously of her time, without which Pasteur-Weizmann would no doubt not have made it past the first moments of enthusiasm.

The creation of the “Pasteur-Weizmann Council for Cancer Research was announced on 28 March 1975 at a press conference led by Mrs Simone Veil and Prof Jacques Monod, organized by Léon Zitrone and broadcast live by ORTF. More than 35 years have elapsed. The Pasteur-Weizmann partnership has continued to expand with a strong framework, thanks to specific financial backing.

Robert Parienti, Délégué Général de l'Institut Weizmann pour l'Europe et co-fondateur de Pasteur Weizmann

Robert Parienti, General Delegate of Weizmann Institute for Europe and co-founder of Pasteur Weizmann Council

About Rotem Sorek’s lab:

Rotem Sorek’s lab is using the Illumina high-throughput sequencing platform to sequence whole microbial genomes and transcriptomes. This technology generates hundreds of millions of short reads per run, reaching multiple giga bases of sequence per day. The Illumina technology enables us to study the evolution of bacteria, discover phenotype altering mutations, and document dynamic evolutionary processes.

Bacterial whole genome evolution

Using this technology, we documented processes of genome shrinkage in bacteria (Moran et al, Science 2009), and found how bacterial genomes evolve in response to phage attacks (Avrani et al, Nature 2011). We also develop methods for accurate detection of individual mutations in genomes using short-read sequencing technologies (Wurtzel et al, 2010).

RNA-mediated regulation in bacteria studied with RNA-seq

We employ RNA-seq to perform gene expression studies in bacteria and archaea and to understand their complex transcriptomes. Although prokaryotic transcriptomes were considered simple until recently, RNA-seq studies now revolutionize our understanding of the complexity, plasticity and regulation of microbial transcriptomes (Sorek & Cossart, Nature Reviews Genetics 2010).

Our lab uses the Illumina technoogy to discover new small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) and understand their biological functions. It is gradually becoming clear that microbial genomes are populated by functional sRNAs, generally 50-500bp long. These sRNAs have been shown to regulate various biological processes including quorum sensing, pathogenesis, stress response, and more. While ~80 sRNAs were characterized in E. coli through extensive studies, very little is known on sRNAs in other prokaryotes. Our data shows extensive transcription of non-coding RNAs from intergenic regions (Yoder-Himes et al, PNAS 2009) and hundreds of cis-antisense RNAs (asRNAs) encoded in bacteria and archaea (Wurtzel et al, 2010; Wurtzel et al, 2012a; Wurtzel et al, 2012b). We recently defined the “Excludon”, a novel antisense-based regulatory structure in bacteria, which is a chimera between antisense RNA and mRNA (Nature Reviews Microbiology, 2013).

Advanced RNA-seq methods, such as RIP-seq and bisulfite-seq are used in the lab to study RNA modifications in humans (Nature, 2012), bacteria and archaea (Edelheit et al, PLoS Genetics in press). We also discovered curious cases of circular RNAs expressed in archaeal genomes (Danan et al, 2012).

Find this article in Israël Science Info n° 16

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