Invited Speaker Taghreed Al Turki, PhD

We are kicking off our Invited Speaker series this Spring Semester with visiting speaker Taghreed Al Turki, PhD. Dr. Al Turki is a renowned researcher in Dr. Jack Griffith’s lab at the University of North Carolina Medical School and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her talk, titled “When Telomeres Speak up for Themselves”, focused on her groundbreaking work on telomeres and their role in cancer and other human diseases.

Dr. Taghreed Al-Turki

UNC School of Medicine researchers Taghreed Al-Turki, PhD, and Jack Griffith, PhD, have presented leading-edge work on repeat associated non-ATG translation mechanism (RAN) elucidated in several human diseases can, when utilized by mammalian TERRA, generate two dipeptide repeat proteins, repeating valine–arginine (VR) and repeating glycine–leucine (GL). They have presented evidence for this– as described in the PNAS paper linked below– and suggest that these repeating dipeptide proteins are generated in greater amounts when cells undergo a telomere crisis. 

Mammalian telomeres consist of (TTAGGG)n repeats. Transcription of the C-rich strand generates a G-rich RNA, termed TERRA, contains G-quadruplex structures. Recent discoveries in several human nucleotide expansion diseases revealed that RNA transcripts containing long runs of 3 or 6 nt repeats which can form strong secondary structures can be translated in multiple frames to generate homopeptide or dipeptide repeat proteins, and multiple studies have shown them to be toxic in cells. 

“We think it’s possible that as we age, the amount of VR and GL in our blood will steadily rise, potentially providing a new biomarker for biological age as contrasted to chronological age,” said Dr. Al-Turki, “we think inflammation may also trigger the production of these proteins.”

During Dr. Al Turki’s presentation she talked of the importance of telomere data and what all it could be telling us. We’d like to thank Taghreed Al Turki, PhD for visiting the Center for NeuroGenetics and presenting her current work!

Next in our speaker series we have Dr. Fen-Biao Gao from UMass Chen Medical School coming to present his topic, ‘Pathogenic Mechanisms of C9ORF72-ALS/FTD: Insights from Drosophila and iPSC Models‘ on April 14th. Send us an email for more details: