Scholar Profile

Amy Si-Ying Lee

Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
Brandeis University
415 South Street
Stop 029
Waltham, MA 02453-2728
Voice: 781-736-4951
Personal Homepage
2017 Searle Scholar

Research Interests

Mechanisms and Regulation of Specialized mRNA Translational Control

Exquisite regulation of the expression of different sets of proteins in each cell is essential for a multitude of biological processes, including cell differentiation, signaling, and immunity. My research is focused on the molecular basis of the gene regulation required for correct organismal development. Specifically, my lab studies the mechanisms of mRNA translational control, which are poorly understood despite translation being a fundamental stage of gene expression. As a postdoctoral fellow, I discovered that the translation initiation factor eIF3 has additional functions outside of global translation in activating or repressing the translation of specific mRNAs encoding proteins important for cell differentiation and proliferation. It is a critical next step to understand the molecular basis by which initiation factors have distinct roles in specialized versus general translation. We will address the following questions: 

How do mRNAs engage distinct translation pathways?

It is not well understood how RNA structure or sequence contributes to which translation pathway an mRNA engages. One major goal of my research is to define the RNA motifs that dictate the use of different translation pathways to reveal the “RNA code” for translation regulation and allow prediction or modification of translation efficiency of an mRNA.

How do translation factors differentially affect general versus specialized translation?

We will examine the implications of heterogeneous expression of initiation factors during different stages of development and the specific roles of these factors in specialized translation regulation. We will furthermore determine the mechanistic basis by which a core factor required for global translation also plays specialized functions in mRNA translation.

How is transcript-specific translation dynamically regulated by environmental stimuli?

Extensive alterations in gene expression result in response to environmental stimuli. However, how transcript-specific translation contributes to these controlled gene programs is not well defined. My lab seeks to define the stimuli, signaling events, and resulting alterations in specialized translation that are incorporated through translation initiation factors.

These studies will have extensive implications on the understanding of gene regulatory mechanisms and consequent shaping of development and cell differentiation.