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Your DNA: Sense or Nonsense?

Release Date:
1/12/2012 2:21 PM

University of New Haven: Joan Steitz, Alvine Lecture Series, events Joan A. Steitz


The Alvine Engineering Professional Effectiveness and Enrichment Program will present a lecture by Dr. Joan A. Steitz, Ph.D., tracing the discovery of snRNPs (pronounced “snurps”) using autoantibodies from Lupus patients.  SnRNPs are the building blocks of the spliceosome, which removes nonsense segments from messenger RNAs and pieces the sense portions back together so that they can be translated into proteins.  The discussion will therefore cover the presence of introns and exons in the genes on our chromosomes and how this unusual structure is exploited in the functioning of the cells.


Wednesday, January 25 at 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.


The Schumann Auditorium in the Tagliatela College of Engineering, Room B120, University of New Haven


Steitz earned her BS in chemistry from Antioch College in 1963. Significant findings from her work emerged as early as 1967, when her Harvard PhD thesis with Jim Watson examined the test-tube assembly of a ribonucleic acid (RNA) bacteriophage (antibacterial virus) known as R17.

Steitz spent the next three years in postdoctoral studies at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, where she used early methods for determining the biochemical sequence of RNA to study how ribosomes know where to initiate protein synthesis on bacterial mRNAs. In 1970, she was appointed assistant professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale, becoming full professor in 1978. At Yale, she established a laboratory dedicated to the study of RNA structure and function. In 1979, Steitz and her colleagues described a group of cellular particles called small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs), a breakthrough in understanding how RNA is spliced. Subsequently, her laboratory has defined the structures and functions of other noncoding RNPs, such as those that guide the modification of ribosomal RNAs and several produced by transforming herpesviruses.  Today, her studies of noncoding RNAs include microRNAs.

Steitz is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. Her many honors include the U.S. Steel Foundation Award in Molecular Biology (1982), the National Medal of Science (1986), the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award (2002), the FASEB Excellence in Science Award (2003), the RNA Society Lifetime Achievement Award (2004), E.B. Wilson Medal (2005), Gairdner Foundation International Award (2006), and Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research (2008) [shared with Elizabeth Blackburn]. She is the recipient of 14 honorary degrees.

For more information contact:  Dr. Ismail Orabi at or 203 932 7144.