Peter Kindgren with aspen trees in the UPSC greenhousePhoto: Fredrik LarssonThe DNA is the blue-print for how a living organism should develop and respond to different environmental cues. It does so by activating and repressing coding regions of the genome. Surprisingly, most of the DNA in genomes do not encode for proteins but is non-coding. With the development of new sequencing technologies, it is apparent that much of this non-coding DNA is transcribed into RNA. A key question in modern biology is therefore why organisms spend so much energy to transcribe something that is not used as template for protein synthesis.

Increasing evidence shows that transcription of non-coding regions are important players in the response to stress situations and control of organismal development. The challenge is often to detect these non-coding transcripts due to their rapid degradation. Therefore, we are only scratching the surface of the functional role of this hidden layer of transcription. Thus, we need to develop new techniques to fully appreciate the roles and rules of non-coding transcription.

A consequence of wide-spread or pervasive transcription of the genome is that many coding regions have non-coding transcription occurring in proximity. This may lead to transcriptional conflicts when two RNA polymerases meet on the DNA template but also regulate the dynamics of coding transcription.

My research group is interested in the dynamics of active transcription and how conflicts between non-coding and coding transcription regulate and dictate decisions made by the plant for optimal stress response and development. We primarily work with the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana but develop new techniques to study non-coding transcription in trees.

The figure illustrates the research in the Kindgren group.