The Role of Cholinergic Signals in Cancer Biology


Assoc. Prof. ‪Özlen Konu

Dr. Ozlen Konu graduated from Middle East Technical University, Turkey, in 1987 with a B.S. degree in Biological Sciences. Dr. Konu pursued her graduate studies in the Biology Department at Texas Tech University, USA, and received her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in 1992 and 1999, respectively. She was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Tennessee at Memphis, USA, during 2000-2002. Since September 2002, she is a faculty member at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Bilkent University. Dr. Konu’s research interests include gene expression data analysis and meta-analysis with respect to cholinergic signaling as it applies to addiction and cancer, and comparative expression profiling using zebrafish model.


Cholinergic signals, endogenously by acetylcholine and exogenously by nicotine, act on nicotinic acetylcholine (nAChRs) receptors and may modulate cellular activity, proliferation and death. Although neuronal cholinergic signaling is well studied epithelial cholinergic signals and their role in cancer biology remain relatively unexplored. Understanding how sythesis and metabolism of acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that degrades acetycholine, as well as presence/absence of nAChRs affect the cancer cell signaling can provide novel leads in cancer research and therapy. Herein Dr. Konu will present results obtained through in silico, in vitro and in vivo approaches on the role of cholinergic signals in cancer progression. Her group recently established a significant proliferative and prognostic role for CHRNA5, the alpha 5 subunit of the pentameric nAChRs, in breast cancer. Moreover, they have developed zebrafish xenograft models to test effects of microenvironment and novel drugs against liver cancer cells.

Date: April 14th, 2021 – 5:00 pm (GMT+3)

Language: English

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RSG TURKEY Webinar + Tutorial

Translational control of cancer and stromal cells – Dr. Ola Larsson

Estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) activity is associated with increased cancer cell proliferation. Studies aiming to understand the impact of ERα on cancer-associated phenotypes have largely been limited to its transcriptional activity. Herein, we demonstrate that ERα coordinates its transcriptional output with selective modulation of mRNA translation. Importantly, translational perturbations caused by depletion of ERα largely manifest as “translational offsetting” of the transcriptome, whereby amounts of translated mRNAs and corresponding protein levels are maintained constant despite changes in mRNA abundance. Transcripts whose levels, but not polysome association, are reduced following ERα depletion lack features which limit translation efficiency including structured 5’UTRs and miRNA target sites. In contrast, mRNAs induced upon ERα depletion whose polysome association remains unaltered are enriched in codons requiring U34-modified tRNAs for efficient decoding. Consistently, ERα regulates levels of U34-modifying enzymes and thereby controls levels of U34-modified tRNAs. These findings unravel a hitherto unprecedented mechanism of ERα-dependent orchestration of transcriptional and translational programs that may be a pervasive mechanism of proteome maintenance in hormone-dependent cancers.
Date: 09/04/2021 – 17.00 GMT+3 

Ola Larsson is an associate professor at the Department of Oncology-Pathology in Karolinska Institutet and SciLifeLab, Sweden. He obtained his Ph.D. in Functional Genomics from Karolinska Institutet and he has completed his postdoctoral studies on translational control of cancer at the University of Minnesota and mechanisms of translational control at McGill University between 2005-2010. By combining biomedicine, statistics, and informatics, Ola Larsson is mapping the regulation of protein production in cancer cells. His aim is to gain a fundamental understanding of why cancer cell growth is uncontrolled. It is hoped that it will be possible in the future to use drugs to restore order in cancer cells.

A tutorial: Transcriptome wide analysis of translational efficiency – İnci Şevval Aksoylu (PhD Student) 

Date: 09/04/2021 – 18.00 GMT+3 

Inci Sevval Aksoylu is a Ph.D. Student at Department of Oncology-Pathology in Karolinska Insitutet and SciLifeLab, Sweden. She obtained her B.Sc. degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics from Bilkent University in 2019. Currently, she works on the control of mRNA translation under supervision of Dr. Ola Larsson and Dr. Charlotte Rolny.


Understanding Viral Diversity Dynamics


Assoc. Prof. ‪Mohammad Asif Khan

Prof. Khan earned his Bachelors degree in Biotechnology, Scientific Computation & Multimedia Communication, National University of Singapore. He earned his MSc and PhD degrees from Bioinformatics Department of National University of Singapore. He continued his research in many institutions including National University of Singapore, Johns Hopkins University, and Perdana University. He is currently Assoc. Prof. at University of Perdana and also visiting professor at Bezmialem Vakıf University. He is Executive Board Member of the Global Organisation for Bioinformatics Learning, Education & Training (GOBLET) and the president of the Asia-Pacific Bioinformatics Network (APBioNet). His research is focused in the areas of Data warehousing for biology, VaccineInformatics, ImmunoInformatics, VenomInformatics, ChemInformatics-based drug design, Disease Biomarker Informatics.


Public databases are treasure troves of sequence data. Given the small genome size of viruses, they represent the entity with one of the largest number of full-genome sequences. Genetic diversity has been one of the mechanisms by which viruses evade the host immune response. Viruses, in particular those of RNA genetic material, mutate rapidly and thus contribute a large number of viral variants. In this talk, we describe the viral diversity dynamics at the protein sequence level and the implication to vaccine design.

Date: March 30th, 2021 – 5:00 pm (GMT+3)

Language: English

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RSG-Turkey is a member of The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) Student Council (SC) Regional Student Groups (RSG). We are a non-profit community composed of early career researchers interested in computational biology and bioinformatics.


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