Karen Wassarman

Position title: Professor

Email: wassarman@bact.wisc.edu

Phone: 608-262-8106

Small RNA regulation of gene expression is critical for appropriate cellular response and survival of environmental stress

5550 Microbial Sciences Building
Postdoctoral Research: 1993-1996 UCSF, 1996-2001 NIH
Research Interests
Small RNA regulation of gene expression is critical for appropriate cellular response and survival of environmental stress.
Research Fields
Gene Expression, Bacteria

Research Description:
All organisms contain small RNAs that participate in diverse cellular activities including RNA processing, mRNA stability, translation, protein stability and secretion. These RNAs are defined by their size (< 350 nucleotides in length) and by the fact that they function as an RNA moiety that is not translated into protein. The research in my laboratory focuses on small RNAs in bacteria using molecular, biochemical and genetic approaches to investigate the function and mechanism of action of these RNAs. For example, the 6S RNA is a highly stable and abundant small RNA that associates with and regulates RNA polymerase, and it is the best studied example of a small RNA that regulates at the level of transcription. E. coli cells lacking 6S RNA are altered in their ability to survive stationary phase and a number of environmental stresses. Intriguingly, 6S RNA also can be used as a template by RNA polymerase to synthesize an RNA product (pRNA), and this reaction is an important regulatory mechanism of 6S RNA function in vivo. In addition, some bacterial species (e.g. B. subtilis) have multiple 6S RNAs, and ongoing work has determined different physiological roles for each 6S RNA. Further studies focused on 6S RNA action, the genes regulated by 6S RNA, and mechanisms to regulate 6S RNA function are anticipated to continue to lead to better understanding of this novel mechanism to control gene expression. In addition, understanding 6S RNA function in diverse organisms will provide insights into how cells survive environmental shifts and stresses, such as during extended nutrient starvation.

Representative Publications:
Search PubMed for more publications by Karen Wassarman

A.T. Cavanagh, J.M. Sperger and K.M. Wassarman. (2012) Regulation of 6S RNA by pRNA synthesis is required for efficient recovery from stationary phase in E. coli and B. subtilis. Nucleic Acids Res 40: 2234-2246.

K.M. Wassarman. (2011) 6S RNA: a regulator of transcription. In W.R. Hess and A. Marchfelder (eds.), Regulatory RNAs in Prokaryotes, Springer, pp. 109-129.

A.D. Klocko and K.M. Wassarman. (2009) 6S RNA binding to Es70 requires a positively charged surface of s70 region 4.2. Mol Microbiol 73:152-164.

A.T. Cavanagh, A.D. Klocko, X. Liu and K.M. Wassarman. (2008) Promoter specificity for 6S RNA regulation of transcription is determined by core promoter sequences and competitionfor region 4.2 of s70. Mol Microbiol 67:1242-1256.

K.M. Wassarman and R.M. Saecker. (2006) Synthesis-mediated release of a small RNA inhibitor of RNA polymerase. Science 314:1601-1603.