Kevin D. Clark
Kevin D. Clark, Ph.D.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Host: Professor Michael Bowser
Characterizing RNA Modifications in the Central Nervous System and Single Neurons:
Strategies in Sample Preparation and Mass Spectrometry
Apart from the four canonical nucleotides of RNA (A, U, G, and C), an expanding collection of over 150 RNA modifications exists that substantially diversifies the RNA code. Known as the “epitranscriptome,” these unusual chemical modifications to RNA range in complexity from simple methylations to conjugation with cellular metabolites and are enzymatically deposited/removed with sequence specificity to control the biophysical properties of cellular RNA biopolymers. However, characterizing RNA modifications in the central nervous system (CNS) has been limited by the complexity of animal models and lack of analytical methods capable of simultaneously detecting multiple modified RNAs in small-volume samples. These shortcomings have rendered the field of RNA modifications unable to account for the heterogeneous distribution of epitranscriptomic marks that potentially exists across the CNS and in single neurons. In this presentation, I will describe how our recent efforts to develop sample preparation and mass spectrometry approaches for the analysis of modified RNAs are beginning to reveal a previously uncharacterized link between dynamic RNA modifications and CNS function.
Kevin Clark received his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from Iowa State University in 2018 and was awarded a 2018 Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship to study RNA modifications in the central nervous system (CNS) with Prof. Jonathan Sweedler and Prof. Rhanor Gillette. Now a postdoctoral research associate in Prof. Sweedler’s lab, Dr. Clark is developing separations and mass spectrometry methods for profiling RNA modifications in single neurons to better understand how they contribute to CNS function.