Dr. Mollie Meffert is an associate professor of biological chemistry and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the regulation of neuronal gene expression in health and disease.
Dr. Meffert received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University. She also earned her MD/Ph.D in neuroscience from Stanford University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at California Institute of Technology with Dr. David Baltimore. Dr. Meffert currently serves as the Vice-Director of the Department of Biological Chemistry
The Meffert lab studies gene control mechanisms underlying enduring changes in brain function. We are interested in understanding how programs of gene expression are coordinated and maintained to produce altered synaptic, neuronal, and cognitive function. Rather than concentrating on single genes, our research is particularly focused on revealing upstream processes that can perform synchronous up and down-regulation of the many genes required to orchestrate physiological responses.
Our laboratory elucidated a post-transcriptional mechanism capable of organizing pro-growth gene programs in which activity-dependent regulation of microRNA (miRNA) production governs the selection of gene targets for protein synthesis. An RNA-binding protein, Lin28, is one activity-responsive factor that promotes pro-growth protein synthesis by downregulating only select miRNAs (e.g. Let-7 ‘tumor suppressor’ miRNAs), which repress pro-growth genes. In neurons, pro-growth mRNA targets of the Let-7 miRNAs include mRNA for proteins involved in excitatory synaptic function, as well as growth and repair. An ongoing focus of investigations in our laboratory is aimed at further exploration of the importance of miRNA biogenesis in determining rapid and specific changes in the neuronal and synaptic proteome and the in vivo roles of these pathways in healthy and dysregulated brain function.
Dr. Meffert’s work has been recognized with a number of awards including the March of Dimes research scholar, a Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative award, the PLU Rho Award, the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow Award, and the Sontag Foundation Distinguished Scientist Award.