Prof. Yaron Shav-Tal is a member of the Nano Medicine Center at the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA), and a Senior Lecturer in the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences.
Shav-Tal’s research focuses on the gene expression pathway, and specifically on mRNA dynamics in living cell systems.
His team studies dynamic cell processes on the single molecule and single cell level using time-lapse fluorescent microscopy and subsequent kinetic analysis.
Their primary goals are to better understand how genes switch “on” and “off” in normal cells and in cancer cells, how quickly mRNAs are transcribed, and what their destination is when they leave the nucleus. Another major area of interest is how alternatively spliced genes produce diverse proteins.
Shav-Tal’s group is able to follow gene expression in real-time by applying a variety of fluorescent tags to genes, mRNAs and proteins.
Specifically, they are interested in unraveling the kinetic rules of gene expression. They have developed a number of cell systems in which gene expression, or mRNA transcription, can be examined and quantified.
Due to their work, it is now possible to observe single genes in living cells and quantify the action of a gene as it unfolds before our eyes. Using this approach, they can monitor the influence of transcription factor binding sites located in promoter regions, on the activity of an oncogene in living cells, thereby elucidating the overexpression pathway in cancerous cells.
In addition, the group is interested in the characterization of novel nucleolar proteins, their alternatively spliced variants, and their possible functions in cancer.
In order to understand how genetic information disseminates from the cell nucleus into the cytoplasm it is important to understand the mechanism of mRNA mobility in cells.
Shav-Tal’s team is interested in following the dynamics of mRNA nucleoplasmic translocation, as well as mRNA export in vivo.
In addition, they analyze different elements that control the export pathway, using inhibitors and knock down of specific elements considered necessary for these processes.
Cytoplasmic mRNAs can be translated by ribosomes, stored in granules, or degraded by a variety of surveillance mechanisms. A group of structures involved in mRNA decay and storage are cytoplasmic P-bodies.
Shav-Tal believes that understanding the dynamics of cytoplasmic P-bodies in living cells in relation to the cell cycle, and imaging the”mRNA localization” process in real-time will assist in revealing the fate of mRNAs in cells.
As the process of transcription occurs, the pre-mRNA undergoes a number of processing events such as capping, splicing and polyadenylation.
Since these processes occur co-transcriptionally, it is important to determine whether they affect transcription kinetics. Shav-Tal’s group is examining the real-time kinetics of the co-transcriptional process of pre-mRNA splicing using live cell imaging techniques (FRAP and photoactivation) followed by kinetic modeling for analysis of the kinetic data.
In addition, they are using these techniques to set up live-cell systems for studying alternative splicing decisions.