Tamra Heberling
Tamra Heberling

Speaker: Tamra Heberling, doctoral student, 
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montana State University

Date: Monday,  January 25, 2016
Time: 4:10 PM
Place: Procrastinator Theater, Strand Union Building
A reception will follow in the Leigh Lounge

They Transcribe with a Little Help from their Friends: 
A Mechanistic Model for Cooperative Behavior of RNA Polymerases


In fast-transcribing genes, such as a ribosomal RNA gene in E. coli bacteria, many RNA polymerases (RNAPs) transcribe the DNA simultaneously. During transcription, RNAPs are often interrupted by pauses, which can cause "traffic jams" between RNAPs just like cars at red lights. However, transcription seems to be faster with multiple RNAPs as opposed to a single RNAP. Heberling proposes that the interaction between RNAPs, using the torque they produce on DNA, can explain this apparent paradox.

Heberling is part of a research team that has incorporated the torque mechanism into a stochastic model and simulated transcription both with and without torque. Their results illustrate that the torque causes shorter pause durations and fewer collisions between polymerases, suggesting that the torsional interaction of RNAPs is an important mechanism in maintaining fast transcription times. Because of its rapid growth resulting from its fast-transcribing genes, E. coli is used to produce important drugs such as insulin for diabetics. Fully understanding the interactions between RNAPs could allow researchers to optimize this process.

About the Speaker:

Heberling's research focuses on mathematical modeling and numerical analysis. She is currently modeling transcription, which is the first step of gene expression when a particular segment of DNA is copied into RNA by the enzyme RNA polymerase.

She is the recipient of a 2014 Kopriva Graduate Student Fellowship.