Must Read

VIDEO: Ankur Jain on Nucleic Acid Phase Separation

Dewpoint scientists were thrilled to host Ankur Jain in their Boston office for a Kitchen Table Talk on July 27. Ankur has an incredible academic background, including a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology and biochemical engineering from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology and a PhD from the University of Illinois where he worked alongside the incomparable biophysicist, TJ Ha. His postdoc studies at the University of California San Francisco with Ron Vale put Ankur on the condensate map.

Ankur’s 2017 Nature paper was a huge inspiration for me during my postdoc in Jim Shorter’s lab and it really drove a lot of the work I did at Penn. Ankur’s description of RNA-driven self assembly was paradigm-shifting for the field and has so many implications for biology, which he goes into in his talk. Ankur was awarded an NIH K99 Award in 2017 and has since started his own independent group at the Whitehead Institute, here in Boston. We felt so lucky to spend some time with Ankur and hear what his lab has been up to. I hope you’ll enjoy his talk in the video below as much as we did.

Ankur Jain on Nucleic Acid Phase Separation


Create an Account or Sign In to view the video.

TRANSCRIPT

Bede Portz (00:00:01):
Good morning, folks. I’m really thrilled to be hosting Ankur today and to introduce him. So a little bit about his background, Ankur earned his bachelor’s degree in biotechnology and biochemical engineering from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology. After which, he trained with the incomparable biophysicist, TJ Ha, when he was at the University of Illinois, and Ankur made quite a number of discoveries there. And then he went on and did his postdoc at the University of California San Francisco with Ron Vale, and it was there that I really became aware of Ankur and his work. He was awarded a K99 and has since started his own independent group at the Whitehead here in Boston.

Bede Portz (00:00:44):
So, a bit about how I got familiar with Ankur, who amazingly I didn’t actually meet in real life until just a moment ago. Oftentimes, when people introduce speakers, they talk about how inspiring the work is and that’s often a platitude, but in my case, it’s very much true. So this paper lived in the sacred space, the top drawer of my bench at Penn when I was in Jim’s lab with a very select few papers, right? This one was really inspiring. If you actually leaf through this, there’s not a page or figure to include the methods that doesn’t have a ton of my notes. So this paper really drove a lot of the work I did at Penn. So it’s a really real thrill to have Ankur here.

Bede Portz (00:01:29):
And so, I’ll just briefly introduce what I think this paper means for the field. Ankur described a process by which nucleic acids independently of proteins can undergo phase transitions. There’s implications here for the etiology of repeat expansion disorders, but separate from that, and I think in parallel to how we have learned much from the aberrant phase transitions of certain neurodegenerative disease, RNA-binding proteins, so too, I think, will this paper become a paradigm for how we understand RNA-driven self-assembly.

Bede Portz (00:02:01):
There’s one more point that I want to add and that is at a time where really we’re reevaluating what it means to be rigorous and reproducible in academic science, this paper also sets a standard. So I had absolutely no experience as an RNA biologist prior to embarking on work that was really driven by this paper. In a matter of weeks, using just the methods section of this paper and reagents that you graciously deposited on Addgene, I was able to recapitulate the crux of this in a matter of weeks, which I think is not a testament to me, but rather to the lucid methods and the quality of the work. So I’m really excited to hear what you have to say and what you’ve been up to in your own lab. Thanks for joining us.

Ankur Jain (00:02:55):
I did put in a lot of effort into writing the methods, just because I, myself, was struggling with the terminology, with the methods that were used in the paper. I’m really glad that you found it useful. Thanks again, Jill, for inviting me over, it’s a real pleasure to see people in real life. I hope we can have some interactive discussion as I present some of the new work that we have been doing in my lab. So, my lab focuses on RNA and RNA granules. The basic premise that we are after is that many of these condensates do contain RNA. Their functions are likely related to regulating RNA biology, be it storage and regulated translation–in the case of germ granules, neuronal granules, or stress granules, or RNA processing folding maturation–as in nucleolus, processing bodies, Cajal bodies, and so on…

Join the conversation

Create an Account or Sign In to comment.