Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Lee, Jeannie T.
Location Harvard University
Primary Field Cellular and Developmental Biology
Secondary Field Biochemistry
 Election Citation
Lee has elucidated the molecular basis of the process of X chromosome inactivation in female mammals. She identified and dissected complex interactions between multiple noncoding RNAs that act in a multistep pathway to count the chromosomes and recruit transcriptional silencing complexes to initiate and maintain X chromosome inactivation.
 Research Interests
Dr. Lee's work focuses on how long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) function as epigenetic switches in gene regulation. Using X-chromosome inactivation as a model, her laboratory has pioneered understanding of mechanisms driving epigenetic change without a change in the DNA code. Her investigations into lncRNAs -- now known as the "dark matter" of the genome -- have helped to elucidate why >95% of our genome is noncoding and why the dark matter is expressed even though they do not make protein. Her lab's work has shown that lncRNAs can exert powerful control over genes through their ability to attract and evict protein factors, as well as through their influence over chromosome architecture. Though normally silent for a lifetime, the inactive X chromosome is a reservoir of 1,000 genes. However, Dr. Lee is investigating how to leverage the chromosomal powerhouse to treat diseases ranging from autism to cancer. Through dissecting basic mechanisms, her lab has established a unique place in biology for lncRNAs: Unlike proteins, lncRNAs can drive locus-specific action on single gene targets. This laser-focus action offers a mechanism for cellular control and highly precise pharmacological interventions for the future of medicine.

 
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