Assistant Professor of Biology; Member, Whitehead Institute
Ankur Jain explores the biology of RNA aggregation. Several genetic neuromuscular disorders such as myotonic dystrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are caused by expansions of nucleotide repeats in their cognate disease genes. Such repeats cause the transcribed RNA to form pathogenic clumps or aggregates. Jain uses a variety of biophysical approaches to understand how the RNA aggregates form, and how they can be disrupted to restore normal cell function. Jain will also study the role of RNA-DNA interactions in chromatin organization, investigating how the RNA transcribed from telomeres (the protective repetitive sequences that cap the ends of chromosomes) modulate telomere architecture and function. Jain completed a Bachelor of Technology in biotechnology and biochemical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India in 2007, followed by a PhD in biophysics and computational biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under the direction of Taekjip Ha in 2013. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California San Francisco, he joins the MIT faculty in the Department of Biology as an assistant professor with an appointment as a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in the fall of 2018.
We study how molecules in a cell self-organize. In particular, we are interested in understanding how membrane-free cellular compartments such as RNA granules form and function. Our lab develops new biochemical and biophysical techniques to investigate these compartments and to understand their dysfunction in human disease. Current topics we are investigating are: 1. How does the sequence of an RNA control its localization? 2. Do cellular RNAs aggregate? 3. How do repetitive sequences affect chromatin organization?