Christine Mayr on Condensate Networks

The Dewpoint team welcomed Christine Mayr for a virtual Kitchen Table Talk on June 30. Christine is an MD-PhD with joint appointments at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical College; her lab studies how mRNAs act as cellular organizers.  

A major contribution to the condensates field is Christine’s discovery of TIS granules that associate with the endoplasmic reticulum. This work was the first to associate a membraneless organelle with a membrane-bound organelle, and demonstrates the extensive role of RNA in the structural organization of cells. Her findings are also notable in that the morphological features of the TIS granules are strikingly different from those of any other RNA granules such as P-bodies or stress granules, which are more spherical and liquid-like. Her talk about this eye-opening research highlights how RNA, especially the untranslated regions, can determine the material properties and composition of condensates. Keep scrolling to watch her wonderful talk or click here to view more talks in our Kitchen Table Talk series.

Christine Mayr on Condensate Networks

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Mark Murcko (00:02):
Well, Christine, welcome and thanks for doing this. I think everybody on the Dewpoint team already knows who you are, but just to say a tiny little bit. Obviously, MD, PhD, both from Berlin, and you’ve been at Sloan Kettering for more than a decade now and also have an appointment at Weill Cornell, where you study the role of mRNA as what I think of as cellular organizers, which has brought you into the condensate field in a big way.

Mark (00:36):
And that amazing paper back in 2018 on the T-I-S, the TIS granules associated with the ER. Amazing paper. And just a historical note for Dewpoint. That paper, when it came out, really was such an eye-opener about how the role of condensates was even more extensive than had been previously recognized. And it was something that we discussed quite a bit back in the early days of the company. And we’ve obviously followed your work with great interest. And it’s just great to have you give a talk. And I think your title is “An RNA Matrix Drives Formation of a Liquid-like Condensate Network,” and we’re really all looking forward to it. So, thank you.

Christine Mayr (01:26):
Yeah. So thank you, Mark, for a really nice introduction. And so today I want to mostly talk about TIS granules but also, in the broader sense, how RNA can actually drive the formation of liquid-like condensates that are not sphere-like. But I want to start by giving you just a brief introduction on how we became interested in condensates. And so, my lab studies, as you mentioned, the functions of mRNAs. And I think basically everybody here knows that mRNAs are the templates for protein synthesis, because the coding region of mRNAs is translated into the amino acid sequence of proteins

Christine Mayr (02:12):
But if you look here, this is an mRNA, or five or six. In addition to the coding region, it has additional parts. It has a 5’UTR and a 3’UTR. And my lab is especially interested in how 3’UTRs contribute to the regulation of protein functions. And a few years ago, we found that 3’UTRs can actually recruit proteins to the site of translation, and this can then lead to the formation of 3’UTR-dependent protein complexes. So those protein complexes can only form if one of the interaction partners is recruited by a 3’UTR….

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