B.Sc.: Department of Biology, University of Patras, Greece, 2001
M.Sc.: School of Medicine, University of Patras, Greece, 2003
Ph.D.: School of Medicine, University of Patras, Greece, 2007
Post-Doc: Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 2009-2013
Research Associate: Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 2017
Senior Research Investigator: Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 2018
Lab Phone: 225-578-9108
Office: A108 Life Sciences Annex
Lab: A149/A151 Life Sciences Annex
Area of Interest: RNA Biology
The transition of Biology into the -omics era generated immense expectations for the cure of human diseases. We now realize that knowing the primary structure of a genome can be compared to knowing the grammar of a language. To generate therapies, we also need to know the syntax (from Greek συντάσσειν, to arrange together): the rules and principles by which genomic information instructs the assembly and the function of the molecular machines that make up the cells.
A far larger portion of the genome than protein coding sequences is transcribed. Coding and non-coding RNAs are bound by proteins involved in RNA biogenesis and function. Such ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes control gene expression at the level of transcription, RNA stability, transport and translation. Thus, the formation and the function of RNP complexes represent a major part of the molecular syntax, the elucidation of which will provide critical insight into mechanisms of development, cell homeostasis and human disease. I have developed and applied combinations of classical biochemistry and genetics with transcriptomic approaches such as RNA-Seq and CLIP-Seq, to uncover how RNP regulatory mechanisms operate in vivo, at the molecular level.
Using this powerful toolset, I have studied Piwi proteins and their small RNA partners the piRNAs, which engage in the regulation and protection of the genome during germline development. We elucidated the processing steps of primary piRNAs, and assigned discrete roles for key protein factors of the processing complexes (Vourekas et al, Genes & Development, 2015; Vourekas et al, Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, 2012). We also revealed that piRNAs can indeed bind partially complementary mRNAs in a miRNA-like manner that nevertheless has unique characteristics: the binding depends on random low complementarity sites that occur in all mRNAs, but preferentially targets longer mRNAs, thus trapping them within germ granules (Vourekas et al, Nature, 2016). These findings resolved long-standing questions in small RNA Biology, and have far-reaching consequences for the structure and function of RNP granules, which I pursue in my independent career.
My lab will be initially pursuing two main projects. The first is on the role that RNA:RNA contacts, Piwi proteins, RNA helicases and associated factors play in the formation (phase separation) and function of germ granules, and RNP granules in general. The second project is on host cell factors involved in post-transcriptional gene regulation during viral infections.
PhD and postdoctoral posiions are available. Candidates with relevant experience in RNA Biology and/or Bioinformatics are encuraged to email their CV accompanied by a short letter of interest.
Vourekas A*, Alexiou P*, Vrettos N, Maragkakis M, Mourelatos Z (2016). Sequence-dependent but not sequence-specific piRNA adhesion traps mRNAs to the germ plasm. Nature 531: 390-394 Highlighted in: Dev Cell. 37:9-10, 2016
Vourekas A*, Zheng K*, Fu Q*, Maragkakis M*, Alexiou P, Ma J, Pillai R, Mourelatos Z, Wang PJ (2015). The RNA helicase MOV10L1 binds piRNA precursors to initiate piRNA processing. Genes & Development 29: 617-629
Vourekas A, Zheng Q, Alexiou P, Maragkakis M, Kirino Y, Gregory BD, Mourelatos Z (2012). Mili and Miwi target RNA repertoire reveals piRNA biogenesis and function of Miwi in spermiogenesis. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 19: 773-781. Featured on the cover
Kirino Y, Vourekas A, Sayed N, de Lima Alves F, Thomson T, Lasko P, Rappsilber J, Jongens TA, Mourelatos Z (2010). Arginine methylation of Aubergine mediates Tudor binding and germ plasm localization. RNA 16: 70-78. Featured on the cover
Vourekas A, Kalavrizioti D, Zarkadis IK, Spyroulias GA, Stathopoulos C, Drainas D (2007). A 40.7 kDa Rpp30/Rpp1 homologue is a protein subunit of Dictyostelium discoideum RNase P holoenzyme. Biochimie 89: 301-310.
Book chapters – Method papers
Alexiou P*, Maragkakis M, Mourelatos Z, Vourekas A* (2018) cCLIP-Seq: Retrieval of Chimeric Reads from HITS-CLIP (CLIP-Seq) Libraries. In: Okamura K., Nakanishi K. (eds) Argonaute Proteins. Methods in Molecular Biology, vol 1680. Humana Press, New York, NY
Vourekas A, Mourelatos Z (2014) HITS-CLIP (CLIP-Seq) for Mouse Piwi Proteins. In: Siomi M. (eds) PIWI-Interacting RNAs. Methods in Molecular Biology, vol 1093. Humana Press, Totowa, NJ
Vourekas A, Kirino Y, Mourelatos Z (2010). Elective affinities: a Tudor-Aubergine tale of germline partnership. Genes & Development 24: 1963-1966.
Vourekas A, Stamatopoulou V, Toumpeki C, Tsitlaidou M, Drainas D (2008). Insights into functional modulation of catalytic RNA activity. IUBMB Life 60: 669-683.