Lights, camera, lincRNA

Haley Bridger, October 13th, 2010 | Filed under
  • Image courtesy Lauren Solomon and Cell

Broad associate member John Rinn recently stopped by our office to drop off copies of the August 6 edition of Cell – his paper on how the tumor suppressor p53 “orchestrates” the actions of noncoding RNAs to turn genes off appeared in the issue and on its cover. John also told us about his brief stint as a video star. Cell Press, which publishes several journals including Cell, allows researchers to submit video abstracts about their papers. These short synopses (fewer than five minutes) give the scientists a chance to communicate their research in a dynamic, visual way.

In his video, John takes viewers on a tour of his lab and introduces us to p53, the guardian of the genome, which turns on and off other genes and protects cells from becoming cancerous. For a long time, researchers didn’t know how p53 turned off genes, but John and postdoctoral scholar Maite Huarte explain how they found that p53 directs non-coding RNA molecules (“lincRNAs”) to bind to proteins to form complexes that turn off genes. This discovery helps explain the mystery of how p53 keeps harmony inside the cell.

Although not yet as famous as Oh My God Cat or those guys who made mentos and Diet Coke explode, John’s video abstract has a little over 3,000 hits on YouTube at the time of this post. John wanted to make the video abstract to capture the attention of people who may not otherwise have a chance to hear about RNA genes and their importance in understanding cell circuitry. Creating the video was a lot of fun for him, although not without its challenges – John had to find creative ways to make his research more accessible to a wider audience. “Filming the video abstract was like being told to film a snowboard trick that I had never heard of before...hard to guess what to do!” John says.

You can judge for yourself if John stuck the landing by watching his video below.