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

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Belfort, Marlene
Location University at Albany, State University of New York
Primary Field Biochemistry
Secondary Field Genetics
 Election Citation
Belfort participated in the initial discovery of self-splicing introns in bacteriophage DNA. She then predicted and demonstrated the mobility of these introns. Her elegant elucidation of the mechanism, based on intron-encoded endonucleases, provides a rationale for intron maintenance in otherwise streamlined procaryotic genomes.
 Research Interests
I study the biology of introns, dynamic sequence elements that interrupt genes. The research answers questions about how introns are removed to preserve genetic integrity, through how they invade genes, to how they evolved. Introns exist in almost all life forms, from relatively simple bacteria, such as E. coli, to humans. My research stems from the discovery at Wadsworth Center in 1984 that, contrary to then-current dogma, introns exist in bacterial systems. The conservation of introns across species allows their study in model organisms, with the attendant advantages of rapid and refined experimentation. My laboratory investigates several types of bacterial introns with two properties in common: first, they are removed at the RNA level by a process called splicing, and second, they can act as mobile genetic elements at the DNA level. My studies examine both RNA splicing and DNA mobility mechanisms as well as the proteins that assist these reactions. Based on genetic, biochemical, and structural approaches, the different molecular pathways whereby introns recruit distinctive proteins to splice and move are elucidated.

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