In July 2018, Emiliano Ricci, Inserm Research Officer at the Cell Biology and Modeling Laboratory (LBMC) in Lyon, was awarded a Starting Grant from the European Research Council. Representing 1.5 million euros over five years, it will enable him to work on the RiboInflam project, exploring the role of ribosomes in inflammatory response. Ribosomes, these large molecular complexes found in each and every one of our cells, synthesize proteins by translating the information contained in transient copies of our DNA, known as messenger RNA. A process called "translation".
"It’s a fantastic opportunity – I’ll be able to hire young researchers and focus on my scientific project, which is a typical exploratory project in that the subject is new, there’s risk involved, and we don’t know whether our hypotheses will be confirmed. Without this European funding, it would have been difficult to do", enthuses the researcher. Ever since his Ph.D. dissertation, Ricci has been studying the translation of messenger RNA into proteins, focusing particularly on the molecular mechanisms through which microRNAs regulate translation. The principle? These small circulating sequences can pair with complementary sequences of messenger RNA and as such block the translation of some genes into proteins during the passage of the ribosomes. During his 2010-2014 postdoc in Melissa Moore’s laboratory at the University of Massachusetts, Ricci discovered that a protein, known as Staufen1, is capable of binding to the ribosomes, thereby promoting the translation of the RNA. In 2014, when back in France, the scientist began to explore a new avenue: when an inflammatory response is triggered to fight the presence of pathogens in the body, their recognition by the body’s cells is associated with the expression of specific genes. "Do ribosomes, when combined with various proteins, play a role in this gene expression program during inflammation?" wonders the researcher. All will be revealed at the end of RiboInflam!