Jeff Coller



725 N. Wolfe Street

PCTB 503

Baltimore, MD 21205

United States

Molecular Biology and Genetics


Messenger RNA (mRNA) degradation plays a critical role in regulating transcript levels in the cell and is a major control point for modulating gene expression. mRNA stability is as vital as transcription in determining steady state RNA levels; but it is comparatively less understood. For over 40 years, it has been appreciated that in dividing cells, mRNA turnover is tightly coupled to the translation status of the message. Specifically, mRNA that is efficiently translated is more stable than mRNA that is poorly translated. The nature of this relationship has been a mystery. My lab has studied the interrelationship between mRNA translation and mRNA stability as a platform to investigate how mRNA half-lives are determined. A series of discoveries from my group have uncovered that a significant determinant for RNA degradation that substantially contributes to differential half-lives is the genetic code itself and a concept termed “Codon Optimality”. Specifically, we have shown that mRNA decay rates are dictated by the percentage of codons deemed ‘optimal’ (based on the abundance of their cognate tRNAs relative to demand). We hypothesized that optimal codons are decoded by ribosomes more rapidly, while non-optimal codons are read more slowly (due to limiting tRNA concentration and base-pairing thermostability. Thus the rate at which the ribosome decodes a mRNA ultimately determines transcript fate. Now we study how regulation is built into this system by looking at 1] how the mRNA degradation machinery interacts with the ribosome 2] how features such as RNA modifications can impact codon optimality and 3] how tRNA biology can ultimately impact mRNA levels.  Lastly, we are harnessing these discoveries, pushing open this exciting field, and leveraging our findings towards the development of novel therapeutics.

Hu W, Sweet TJ, Chamnongpol S, Baker KE, Coller J.* Co-translational mRNA decay in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Nature, 2009; 461:225-229;

Presnyak VAlhusaini N, Chen YH, Martin S, Morris N, Kline N, Olson S, Weinberg D, Baker KE, Graveley BR, Coller J.* Codon optimality is a major determinant of mRNA stability.  Cell, 2015; 160: 1111-1124

Radhakrishnan A, Chen YH, Martin S, Alhusaini N, Green R, Coller J.* The DEAD-box helicase Dhh1p couples mRNA decay and translation by monitoring codon optimality, Cell, 2016;167, 122-132

Webster MW, Chen YH, Stowell J, Alhusaini N, Sweet T, Graveley B, Coller J*, Passmore L.* mRNA Deadenylation Is Coupled to Translation Rates by the Differential Activities of Ccr4-Not Nucleases.  Mol. Cell, 2018; 70,1089 – 1100;  *co-corresponding authors

Arango D, Sturgill D, Alhusaini N, Dillman A, Sweet T, Hanson G, Sinclair W, Hosogane M, Nanan K, Fox S, Zengeya T, Andresson T, Meier J, Coller J, Oberdoerffer S.* Acetylation of cytidine in messenger RNA promotes translation efficiency.  Cell, 2018; 175, 1872-1886

Buschauer R, Matsuo Y, Sugiyama T, Chen YH, Alhusaini N, Sweet T, Ikeuchi K, Cheng J, Matsuki Y, Nobuta R, Gilmozzi A, Berninghausen O, Tesina P, Becker T, Coller J*, Inada T*, Beckmann R.* (The Ccr4-Not complex monitors the translating ribosome for codon optimality. Science, 2020; 368(6488). *co-correspondence