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VIDEO: René Ketting on The Role of Germ Granules in Small RNA Pathways

António Miguel de Jesus Domingues
António Miguel de Jesus Domingues

Senior Scientist, Dewpoint Therapeutics

Type Kitchen Table Talk

On January 18, the Dewpoint scientists and condensate community gathered for a Kitchen Table Talk by René Ketting, my previous postdoc mentor whom I admire for his incredible knowledge about RNA processing. René gained this expertise over a fruitful career starting with a PhD at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, followed by a postdoc at Cold Spring Harbor, rising to a professor at the University Utrecht, and culminating as a director at the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) in Mainz, Germany.

I had the pleasure of working with René as a postdoc in his lab at the IMB, where I gained an appreciation for how important piRNAs are for life because they are essentially small RNAs that protect genomic integrity, especially in germ cells. In his talk below, René discusses the molecular aspects of the formation of germ cell condensates, including P granules and PEI granules, which his lab discovered last year. I hope you enjoy the discussion of that paper and some of his lab’s current work in determining the function of PEI granules.

René Ketting on The Role of Germ Granules in Small RNA Pathways

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António Domingues (00:00):
It’s my pleasure to introduce René. I worked in his lab for four and a half years, more or less, almost by accident, but this is a story for another day. I’ve learned a lot in his lab because when I started there, I didn’t know anything about transposons or small RNA processing or very little about that. But let’s get back to the beginning. So René is currently director at the IMB, a fairly new institute in Germany, in Mainz, but a very successful one, I think, considering its age. René did his PhD in The Netherlands and he followed by postdoc in Cold Spring Harbor, and then back to The Netherlands to Utrecht, where then he became a professor before moving to Germany. All of his research, if I can summarize, it has been on small RNA processing.

António Domingues (00:58):
Going back in the day for people who still remember microRNAs, the microprocessor, I believe it’s called the microprocessor component that he studied and then going all the way to piRNAs. piRNAs are fascinating because they are small RNAs, non-coding RNAs that stop transposons from basically invading our genomes. This is super cool because without that, we basically wouldn’t exist because it would just destroy our genome integrity and we wouldn’t be able… Especially in the germ cells, there would be no production at all. This is one of the things I’ve learned in his lab. Hopefully, he’ll talk about more about the germ granules and the small RNAs in a much better way than I can do because I didn’t learn enough back there. It will also hopefully show some beautiful C. elegans pictures, which I admire a lot. So with that, because I can’t do justice to the work that you’ve done, René, please, the floor is yours.

René Ketting (02:07):
Thanks, António, for the introduction, and thanks for the opportunity to talk about our work here on this platform. Of course, this platform is focused on all flavors and types and properties of condensates. This is also a field of interest that has our strong attention because the small RNAs that António mentioned are typically active and are also being made within condensates. The bigger picture of how we see that interaction between these two fields now is that we would really love to use the knowledge of the small RNA pathways that we are studying, not only to just understand how the small RNA pathways are working, but also to understand how these condensates, how the germ granules are really working really in a biological setting that has a lot of relevance to fertility, to oogenesis, to spermatogenesis, and hence with a lot of biological relevance there…

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