Assistant Professor of Biochemistry
B.S., Biopsychology and Cognitive Sciences, University of Michigan
Ph.D., Neuroscience, Northwestern University
Project: How does a modification of RNA influence the brain’s development and activity?
As a child, Kate Meyer had ambitions of becoming a surgeon, and entered college on a premedical track. A course on abnormal psychology fueled her fascination with the brain’s complexity, and she switched her focus to neuroscience. She helped with a research project on the neural basis of taste, which involved “scoring rat behaviors for hours on end, and loving it,” she recalls. “I was super excited to do literally anything” in the laboratory, Meyer adds.
She sought further training in neuroscience as a Ph.D. student in Jill Morris’ lab at Northwestern University, where she investigated the expression pattern of a gene implicated in schizophrenia and assessed its role in the developing brain. During a postdoctoral fellowship with Samie Jaffrey at Weill Cornell Medical College, Meyer delved into the biology of RNA. She led a comprehensive analysis of an RNA modification called m6A—the methylation of adenosine residues, a chemical marker that can influence whether an RNA molecule is translated into protein. Using next-generation sequencing, Meyer and her colleagues showed that the modification is widespread among thousands of genes in mammals, and that its prevalence increases in the brain during development.
In her own laboratory at Duke, Meyer and her team are exploring how the m6A modification affects when and where genes are expressed—with special attention to how this regulation shapes the growth, connections and activities of neurons. Her goal, she says, is “to understand, all the way from the molecular level to the behavioral level, what happens if we manipulate this pathway that controls methylation. What are the consequences for things like learning and memory, or neurological disease?”