Dr. Bolger's research focuses on understanding post-transcriptional gene regulation and its relation to human disease, especially cancer. They are interested in how the dynamics of mRNA-protein complexes are controlled, focusing on a set of RNA helicase and RNP remodeling enzymes termed the DEAD-box proteins. DEAD-box proteins are required at virtually every step of gene expression to promote appropriate RNA-RNA and RNA-protein interactions, and several of them have been linked to cancer and other diseases. In particular, mutations in a DEAD-box protein, Ded1 in budding yeast and DDX3 in humans, have been strongly linked to medulloblastoma, the most common pediatric brain cancer. The function and regulation mechanisms of Ded1/DDX3, as well as the effect of the identified mutations, are under intense study in his laboratory. Uncovering these mechanisms and expanding this research to other studies of mRNP dynamics will both promote our basic understanding of the regulation of gene expression and elucidate the molecular pathways that influence cancer and other diseases.
During Dr. Bolger's research career, he has gained broad experience in the basic research of gene expression regulation as well as in cancer biology. As a graduate student in Molecular Cancer Biology, he gained a strong background in cancer biology. Further, during multiple levels of his training, he studied different aspects of gene expression, including transcription regulation, nucleocytoplasmic trafficking, and translation.
As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Bolger initiated a project to examine functional coupling between mRNA nuclear export and protein translation. He has continued and expanded his postdoctoral work in his own laboratory, using genetic, biochemical, and cell biology techniques to address fundamental biological questions and understand the relationship between normal function and disease.
Dr. Bolger joined the University of Arizona Cancer Center in an effort to further expand the cancer aspect of his research, and he has found input from Cancer Center members (e.g. during “works-in-progress” meetings) to be very helpful in formulating future research directions. Furthermore, Dr. Bolger plans to expand some of their current research into animal models within the next three to five years as a collaborative effort, and the Cancer Center will be a valuable resource in pursuing this collaboration.