Max Koppers joins CNCR and starts new team on mRNA trafficking
Max will start at FGA on March 1st, building a team aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms and functional relevance of mRNA trafficking and local translation in neuronal subcellular compartments in health and disease.
Neurons are highly polarized and interactive cells that require precise spatiotemporal regulation of their proteins for proper functioning. To achieve this, neurons have the ability to localize mRNAs and locally synthesize proteins. These processes play key roles in the development, plasticity and maintenance of neurons. Importantly, dysregulation of this process is increasingly implicated in neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal muscular atrophy and Alzheimer’s disease. However, how a neuron regulates the localization of mRNAs and its translation remains poorly understood. Moreover, we know very little about the function of mRNA localization and local protein synthesis at presynaptic nerve terminals.
The main focus of my research group is to understand the molecular mechanisms and functional relevance of mRNA trafficking and local translation in neuronal subcellular compartments in health and disease. In particular, we are interested in the role of the endoplasmic reticulum in regulating mRNA localization and local translation and its role in presynaptic function.
Max: My PhD research at the UMC Utrecht (Pasterkamp and van den Berg labs) on the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) led me to first encounter the world of RNA biology and in particular, a cell’s ability to localize mRNAs and locally translate them. In ALS, RNA-binding proteins are mutated and during my PhD I investigated the mechanisms of how these mutations can lead to disease. I moved to the University of Cambridge (Christine Holt lab) for a postdoc, to dive into the world of local mRNA translation in neurons, and in particular in axons. I received a NWO Rubicon grant to investigate how external stimuli can affect axonal mRNA translation and regulate the specific translation of certain mRNAs through cell surface receptors. I then moved to Utrecht University (Ginny Farías lab) where I obtained a NWO Veni grant to investigate the role of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in axonal mRNA translation. I found that the axonal ER plays an important role in local translation and I developed various tools to study the role of the axonal ER in this process.
I will join the CNCR from March 2023 and will be on the lookout for a PhD student and Master students to join my lab and help me to explore the many interesting aspects and functions of axonal RNA biology!