Andrej O. Župančič Memorial Lecture

Jernej Ule: The tricks neurons use to express their genes: jumping genes, zero-length exons and RNA loops

Friday, 15th May 2015
Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana

On Professor Andrej O. Župančič

Professor Andrej O. Župančič (27. januar 1916 - 3. december 2007) was the founder and the first Head of the Institute of Pathophysiology at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine, Slovenia. Under his guidance, the institute became a center of internationally renowned neuroscience research in Slovenia. Being a fascinating person, he attracted many young scientists into this field and incited neuroscience research also in other university and clinical institutions. He was the first Honorary member of SiNAPSA, accepting our invitation when the society was very young, giving its mission his wholehearted support.


Professor Župančič passed away in 2007 and the organizers of the SNC'15 together with his former students and friends in Slovenia dedicate this lecture to his memory.

On A.O. Župančič Memorial Lecturer: Professor Jernej Ule

Jernej Ule was born in Ljubljana in 1976. After pursuing an undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology at the University of Ljubljana, he received a PhD in molecular neuroscience from the Rockefeller University (New York) in 2004, where he also pursued further postdoctoral work. In 2006 he started a research group at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. Here, his group developed iCLIP, a method that employs high-throughput sequencing for transcriptome-wide study of protein-RNA interactions at nucleotide resolution. In 2013 he moved with his group to the UCL Institute of Neurology in London, where he is now a Professor in the Department of Molecular Neuroscience. His group studies how protein-RNA complexes control gene expression during neuronal differentiation and in motor neuron disease. His research crosses the boundaries of experimental and computational neuroscience by employing diverse techniques, including molecular, cellular and computational biology. Thereby, he strives towards a comprehensive view of neuronal RNA biology. More details about his research can be obtained at

On A.O. Župančič Memorial Lecture: The tricks neurons use to express their genes: jumping genes, zero-length exons and RNA loops

As soon as DNA is transcribed into RNA, various RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) interact with the RNA, and thereby regulate the expression of proteins. This is particularly important in highly polarised cells, such as neurons and glia in the brain. RBPs control production of alternative mRNA isoforms and localisation of these mRNAs to specific cellular compartments, where mRNA translation can then be regulated in response to local stimuli. We have uncovered new regulatory features in transcripts that are produced in the brain, including transposable elements and zero-length exons. I will discuss how these features contribute to the regulation, diversity and evolution of gene expression. I will also present interactions of RBPs with the secondary structure of mRNAs. We recently developed a high-throughput method that can identify RNA duplexes that interact with RBPs in vivo. This revealed the existence of long-range RNA loops, which regulate mRNA stability and translation. Together, I will discuss how protein-RNA interactions enable the diverse and unique mechanisms for regulating gene expression in the brain.

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