Brian Gregory

Associate Professor of Biology
103D Carolyn Lynch Laboratory
Plant Biology
Genetics, Epigenetics, Genomics
Computational Biology

Ph.D., Harvard University, 2005

Research Interests: 


Mechanisms and regulation of RNA silencing pathways


My research focuses on unraveling the molecular mechanisms governing the regulation and function of RNA silencing pathways. RNA silencing is a highly conserved pathway that controls gene expression post-transcriptionally. This pathway is trigged by either the production of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) or self-complementary fold-back structures that give rise to small RNAs (smRNAs) through the activity of DICER or DICER-LIKE (DCL) RNase III-type ribonucleases. These smRNAs comprise the sequence-specific effectors of RNA silencing pathways that direct the negative regulation or control of genes, repetitive sequences, viruses, and mobile elements. Therefore, smRNAs control diverse functions from development to immunity and their dysregulation leads to a wide-variety of diseases. smRNAs are comprised of microRNAs (miRNAs) and several classes of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), which are differentiated from one another by their distinct biogenesis pathways, the classes of genomic loci from which they arise, and their targets. While a number of the key components of these pathways have been identified, there are many still to be isolated and characterized. Additionally, the underlying regulatory mechanisms controlling the production and targeting of specific smRNA populations are not well understood. Therefore, my research has concentrated on identifying novel proteins (including those involved in RNA stability/degradation) that are required for the metabolism of various classes of smRNAs and how these factors regulate specific RNA silencing pathways. We have demonstrated that ABH1/CBP80, a subunit of the mRNA cap-binding complex, is necessary to obtain proper mature miRNA levels, which suggests this protein is an essential component of the miRNA-mediated RNA silencing pathway. Using high-throughput sequencing technologies, we have shown that XRN4/EIN5, a 5’-3’ exoribonuclease, affects the levels of a smRNA class that is processed from both sense and anti-sense strands of ~130 endogenous transcripts that are converted to double-stranded RNA and subsequently processed. Using a combination of genetics, biochemistry, and sequencing techniques, our results revealed unexpected connections between RNA metabolism and silencing pathways. 


Making use of genomic, bioinformatic, and systems biology approaches with molecular genetic and biochemical techniques we are identifying and characterizing additional components required for the metabolism of various classes of smRNAs, as well as proteins involved in the regulation of specific smRNA populations and RNA silencing pathways. Specifically, our lab is taking a forward genetic approach using the model genetic organism Arabidopsis thaliana to identify new factors, and have already identified candidate genes that we are characterizing using genomic, molecular biological, and cell biological techniques in Arabidopsis. Furthermore, as these pathways are highly conserved, we are also studying these factors in smRNA pathways in Drosophila. The findings from this work will allow a better understanding of how RNA silencing pathways function, and the ways they can be manipulated for controlling gene expression across eukaryotic systems.

Selected Publications: 


Li, F., Zheng, Q., Ryvkin, P., Dragomir, I., Desai, Y., Aiyer, S., Valadares, O., Yang, J., Bambina, S., Sabin, L.R., Murray, J.I., Lamitina, T., Raj, A., Cherry, S., Wang, L.S., and Gregory, B.D. 2012. Global analysis of RNA secondary structure in two metazoans. Cell Reports 1: 69-82.


Willmann, M.R., Endres, M.W., Cook, R.T., and Gregory, B.D. 2011. The functions of RNA-dependent RNA Polymerases in Arabidopsis. The Arabidopsis Book. 9: e0146.


Endres, M.W., Cook, R.T., and Gregory, B.D. 2011. A high-throughput sequencing-based methodology to identify all uncapped and cleaved RNA molecules in eukaryotic genomes. Methods Mol. Biol. 732: 209-223.


Zheng, Q., Ryvkin, P., Li, F., Dragomir, I., Valladares, O., Yang, J., Cao, K., Wang, L.S., Gregory, B.D. 2010. Genome-Wide Double-Stranded RNA Sequencing Reveals the Functional Significance of Base-Paired RNAs in Arabidopsis. PLoS Genet. 6: e1001141.


Earley K.W., Smith, M.R., Weber, R., Gregory, B.D., and Poethig, R.S. 2010. An endogenous F-box protein regulates ARGONAUTE1 in Arabidopsis thaliana. Silence. 1: 15.



Gregory, B.D., O’Malley, R.C., Lister, R., Urich, M.A., Tonti-Filippini, J., Chen, H., Millar, A.H., and Ecker, J.R. 2008. A link between RNA metabolism and silencing affecting Arabidopsis development. Dev. Cell 14: 854-866.

Lister, R., O’Malley, R.C., Tonti-Filippini, J., Gregory, B.D., Berry, C.C., Millar, A.H., and Ecker, J.R. 2008. Highly integrated single-base resolution maps of the epigenome in Arabidopsis. Cell 133: 523-536.

Gregory, B.D., Yazaki, J., and Ecker, J.R. 2008. Utilizing tiling microarrays for whole-genome analysis in plants. Plant J. 53: 636-644.

Chekanova, J.A.*, Gregory, B.D.*, Reverdatto, S.V., Chen, H., Kumar, R., Hooker, T., Yazaki, J., Li, P., Skiba, N., Peng, Q., Alonso, J., Brukhin, V., Grossniklaus, U., Ecker, J.R., and Belostotsky, D.A. 2007. Genome-wide high-resolution mapping of exosome substrates reveals hidden features in the Arabidopsis transcriptome. Cell 131: 1340-1353.  *These authors contributed equally to this work.

Olmedo, G.*, Guo, H.*, Gregory, B.D.*, Nourizadeh, S.D.*, Aguilar-Henonin, L., Li, H., An, F., Guzman, P., and Ecker, J.R. 2006. ETHYLENE-INSENSITIVE5 encodes a 5’—3’ exoribonuclease required for regulation of the EIN3-targeting F-box proteins EBF1/2. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 103: 13286-13293.  *These authors contributed equally to this work.