University of Wisconsin–Madison
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences | School of Medicine and Public Health

Marvin Wickens



315B Biochemistry

Ph.D., Stanford (1978), Postdoctoral Research: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England
Research Interests
The molecular basis of RNA control: how it is accomplished, integrated and evolves, and how it is used during development and in the brain.
Research Fields
Gene Expression, C. elegans, Fungi

Research Description:
RNA control determines when, where and how much protein is produced from an mRNA. Tens of thousands of mRNAs are regulated in a single human cell, and the controls are pivotal in a wide variety of biological contexts, from development to disease to learning and memory. We want to understand, comprehensively and in molecular detail, how mRNA regulation works: how the mRNAs are recognized, how activators and repressors do what they do, and how they are used in biology. We want to integrate that knowledge to understand the mRNA regulatory circuitry of complex biological decisions.

We concentrate on factors and circuits that are found among all eukaryotes. We have developed facile genetic systems in yeast to identify new proteins from any organism that bind to RNA sequences of interest, or to analyze their function independent of their ability to bind RNA. The region of the mRNA between the termination codon and poly(A) − the 3′ untranslated region (3’UTR) − is critical. We identify proteins with which 3’UTRs interact, and use that to put together and understand networks of RNA control. In parallel, we dissect the mechanisms through which those factors activate or repress mRNAs.

We work at the interface between molecular genetics, biochemistry, and developmental biology and neurobiology. We combine the molecular genetics of yeast and C. elegans with manipulations of frog embryos and cell-free systems. We combine biochemistry with biology and genetics to get a complete picture, and reveal which features are general and which are idiosyncratic. Currently, we focus on regulation of stem cells in C. elegans, the cell cycle in Xenopus embryos, and memory in Drosophila.

Representative Publications:
Search PubMed for more publications by Marvin Wickens

Goldstrohm and Wickens. In press. Multifunctional deadenylase complexes and the diversity of mRNA control. Nature Mol Biol Rev.

Kwak and Wickens. 2007. A family of poly(U) polymerases. RNA.13:860-867.

Suh, Jedamzik, Eckmann, Wickens and Kimble. 2006. The GLD-2 poly(A) polymerase activates gld-1 mRNA in the Caenorhabditis elegans germ line. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:15108-15112.

Goldstrohm, Hook, Seay and Wickens. 2006. PUF proteins bind Pop2p to regulate messenger RNAs. Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. 13:533-539.

Opperman, Hook, DeFino, Bernstein and Wickens. 2005. A single spacer nucleotide determines the specificities of two mRNA regulatory proteins. Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. 12:945-951.