1997-2003 Postdoc. Max-Planck-Institut BPC, Göttingen, Germany.
1994-1997 Postdoc. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, USA.
Honours and Awards - Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship (1997 - 1999)
The Watkins lab is interested in the production of eukaryotic ribosomes. These large, RNA-protein complexes are responsible for the synthesis of all cellular protein. Regulating ribosome production therefore controls the rate of protein synthesis and this in turn determines how fast the cell can grow. Ribosome production is upregulated in almost all cancers. Our research falls into two basic areas:
1) Small nucleolar (sno)RNPs and ribosomal (r)RNA modification.
SnoRNPs are RNA-protein complexes that catalyse the post-transcriptional modification of rRNA. Defects in rRNA modification have been linked to the genetic disease Treacher-Collins syndrome. The modifications, the most common of which are 2'-O-methylation and pseudouridylation, are clustered around functionally important regions of the ribosome and are essential for efficient translation. The RNA component of the snoRNP selects the site of modification by base-pairing with the target site in the rRNA. These base-pairing interactions are also predicted to regulate the folding of the rRNA. We are interested in the mechanism by which the snoRNPs are recruited to the ribosomal RNA and how these complexes modulate rRNA folding and ribosome assembly.
Current PhD students: Loren Macdonald, Andria Pelava