With funding from FRAXA Research Foundation from 2004-2006, Dr. Fen-Biao Gao and his team at the University of California studied the relationship between mRNA and FMRP.
Fay Wang, PhD
FRAXA Postdoctoral Fellow (2006)
Since FMRP, the fragile X protein, is an RNA-binding protein, it is widely assumed that symptoms of fragile X occur because of an alteration in the handling (transport and translation) of various messenger RNAs. Previous studies have shed much light on which mRNAs are ‘handled’ by FMRP, but these have not been definitive by any means. Dr. Gao’s group aims to add to our knowledge of the targets of FMRP by adding a functional assay: locomotion (wandering in response to external stimuli). Using drosophila as his model system, he will look for the mRNAs which interact with the fly version of FMRP and which can alter locomotor function when mutated. Since fly genes and mRNAs correspond quite precisely to human genes and mRNAs, this investigation will provide a working model to study the cause of the heightened sensitivity that fragile X patients display toward touch, light and sound.