William C. Merrick, PhD

Department of Biochemistry
School of Medicine

Research Information

Research Interests

The Merrick laboratory seeks to identify all of the eukaryotic translation initiation factors and determine their sequential utilization in the initiation pathway. A secondary goal is to characterize how the initiation pathway is regulated and the different consequences depending on the exact point of regulation.

Current research is focusing on two major aspects of translation initiation, cap-dependent and cap-independent (or internal) initiation. Although much of the gross work has been determined using hemoglobin mRNA as a model mRNA, it has become clear that other elements influence both the regulation and mechanism of translation initiation in mammalian systems. Within the realm of cap-dependent translation, we are examining the influence of individual initiation factors on both overall affect on translation initiation and the affect of increased or decreased levels of initiation factors on start site selection in mRNAs containing in frame start sites which yield two proteins, one with a slightly longer N-terminal region than the other.

At the same time, we are also examining more closely the interaction of the mRNA specific initiation factors (eIF4A, eIF4B, eIF4F, eIF4H) with RNA. Both the characteristics of ideal RNAs for binding to the factors and ideal duplexes for unwinding are being examined.

As companion studies, yeast are being used to assess in vivo function of elements that influence internal initiation. Previous work has defined the Ure2p IRES (internal ribosome entry site) and has shown that IRES-mediated expression is specifically inhibited by the presence of eIF2A. We are currently trying to identify the minimal IRES element based upon the Ure2p IRES and determine how eIF2A regulates internal initiation. Preliminary data suggest that the regulation by eIF2A is controlled by both the amount of protein and by post-translational modification.


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University of Georgia
Post Doc
National Institutes of Health Bethesda