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Ryan Spengler

Mentor: Beverly Davidson, Ph.D.
Lab Room: 200 EMRB
Lab Phone: 319-353-5573

Understanding functional significance of evolutionarily-novel miRNAs and their targets

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a novel class of small non-coding RNAs that play crucial roles in the post-transcriptional regulation of many protein-coding “target” genes. However, the importance and extent of individual miRNAs in regulating target gene expression is only beginning to be appreciated. While the majority of known miRNAs are conserved even between evolutionarily-distant species, I am particularly interested in evolutionarily-novel miRNAs, and specifically in those that have arisen within in the primate lineage. By understanding the evolution and functional relationship between these novel miRNAs and their targets, we hope to understand better how new miRNA-based regulatory systems arise and how they may contribute to physiological differences between recently-diverged species. In order to address these questions, I use basic bioinformatics in combination with both classical and cutting-edge molecular biology techniques to study the evolution and function of primate-specific miRNAs.


Boudreau RL, Spengler RM, Hylock RH, Kusenda BJ, Davis HA, Eichmann DA, Davidson BL. siSPOTR: a tool for designing highly specific and potent siRNAs for human and mouse. Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Aug 31. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 22941647.

Boudreau RL, Spengler RM, Davidson BL. Rational design of therapeutic siRNAs: minimizing off-targeting potential to improve the safety of RNAi therapy for Huntington's disease. Mol Ther. 2011 Dec;19(12):2169-77. doi: 10.1038/mt.2011.185. Epub 2011 Sep 27. PubMed PMID: 21952166; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3242660.

Monteys AM, Spengler RM, Wan J, Tecedor L, Lennox KA, Xing Y, Davidson BL. Structure and activity of putative intronic miRNA promoters. RNA. 2010 Mar;16(3):495-505. Epub 2010 Jan 14. PubMed PMID: 20075166; PubMed Central PMCID:PMC2822915.

Borchert GM, Gilmore BL, Spengler RM, Xing Y, Lanier W, Bhattacharya D, Davidson BL. Adenosine deamination in human transcripts generates novel microRNA binding sites. Hum Mol Genet. 2009 Dec 15;18(24):4801-7. Epub 2009 Sep 23. PubMed PMID: 19776031; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2778373.

Keck K, Volper EM, Spengler RM, Long DD, Chan CY, Ding Y, McCaffrey AP. Rational design leads to more potent RNA interference against hepatitis B virus: factors effecting silencing efficiency. Mol Ther. 2009 Mar;17(3):538-47. Epub 2008 Dec 16.


Spengler RM, Jiang P, Fineberg SK, Xing Y, Davidson BL. Mammalian Retrotransposons Create Functional MicroRNA:Target Pairs. Biology of RNA silencing Keystone Symposium 4/2009

Gilmore B, Spengler RM, Borchert GM, Xing Y, Davidson BL. Adenosine deamination in human transcripts increases the complexity of putative miRNA:miRNA interactions. RNA Silencing: Mechanism, Biology and Application Keystone Symposium. 1/2010

Spengler RM, Wan J, Xing Y, Davidson BL. Functional miRNA and mIRNA binding sites manifested from lineage-specific retrotransposon events. MicroRNAs and Non-coding RNAs and Cancer Keystone Symposium. 2/2011

Honors and Awards

  • MCB Training Grant
  • Biosciences First Year Graduate Research Award
  • Keystone Symposia Future of Science Fund Travel Scholarship (MicroRNAs and Non-coding RNAs and Cancer Keystone Symposium 2011)