Andrew Buechler
Advisor: Susan Martinis
Cohort: 2016
Degree: PhD 2022
Current Position: Postdoc at UIUC in the Dept. of Microbiology in Professor Cari Vanderpool’s research group

Research Description: Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) and tRNA play fundamental roles in protein synthesis. The aaRSs covalently link specific amino acids to their cognate tRNAs, and these aminoacylated tRNAs subsequently interpret the genetic code that is embedded in mRNA to translate proteins. In addition to their canonical roles in protein synthesis, both aaRSs and tRNA are involved in a wide variety of other vital functions. My research focuses on novel roles of both leucyl-tRNA synthetase (LeuRS) and tRNA as chemical signals. In particular, LeuRS in E. colimigrates to the periplasmic space and fragments in response to certain stresses. E. coli also secretes LeuRS and tRNA at its stationary phase of growth. In addition, exogenous tRNA modulates human cell migration and assembly in tissue culture from a monolayer to tightly packed clusters of cells. I am investigating the role of dynamic LeuRS localization and its fragmentation during the E. coli stress response. Additionally, I am studying how tRNA influences human cells in the context of the microbiome, where I hypothesize that RNA factors serve as signals between host and microbe cells.