RNA Featured Researcher – Adrien Chauvier, Ph.D., Chemistry


Adrien Chauvier, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Walter Lab
Chemistry, LSA


Your research interests in less than 100 words

I aim to understand how RNA modulates gene expression using riboswitches as a model system. Riboswitches are structural elements that regulate transcription or translation through structural conformational change triggered by the binding of a specific ligand. Since they are prevalent in bacteria, riboswitches are ideal candidates for the design of new antibiotics. I unveiled an additional layer of regulation used by riboswitches, in which they can also affect the recruitment of essential regulatory proteins during a short time window, opening the possibility for a timely coordinated treatment during bacterial infection.

  • How does RNA relate to your research interests, and why?
    While in the past, it was considered only as an information carrier to make proteins, RNA, and especially non-coding RNA has been found to be very versatile! Non-coding RNAs can regulate their own synthesis and my research is specifically about the impact of RNA structures on the transcription process. RNA structures can also modulate the downstream step of translation by promoting or preventing ribosome access. These structural functions and biological outcomes are still very underappreciated. Therefore, I am interested in going farther in this area of research.
  • Is there a layman image that could illustrate your research?
    RNA polymerases in conjunction with transcription factors are macromolecular complexes responsible for the synthesis of kilobases of RNA in a short amount of time. However, transient interruptions of RNA polymerase progression during transcription occur frequently. This phenomenon, known as transcriptional pausing, is involved in multiple biological processes in all living organisms. My research has contributed to our understanding of how particular RNA structure modulates transcriptional pausing and vice versa.
  • How did you become interested in this topic?
    I was always interested in transcription regulation but during my bachelor’s and first master’s degree it was mainly about the general picture. During my Ph.D., I wanted to go deeper in the mechanistic understanding of transcription. I focused on riboswitches and then they became my favorite model of study.
  • Who/what brought you to science?
    Without hesitation, my father who was also a Scientist in the past. I would add that my first scientific mentor, Pr. Olivier Gadal has confirmed my desire to pursue research work in general. I remember so many great discussions during the “mandatory coffee hour” every morning before starting the day.
  • What brought you to the University of Michigan?
    I first met in-person my Principal Investigator, Nils Walter, during a scientific conference in 2016. I was presenting a poster and he was judging it. Knowing the great work his lab was doing in my field, it was really intimidating to present my Ph.D. work in front of him. During the interview for the post-doc position, I could see how the University of Michigan is a great place to perform research and imagined myself easily in this environment.
  • What are the main challenges/concerns to achieve your professional goals?
    During this uncertain time, it is easy to think about the in-person aspect of our work. We need to do Science and test our hypotheses on the bench! It brings me joy every time I enter in a lab space, and I was missing this feeling during the lockdown.
  • What’s your favorite hobby?
    Science is my hobby and is an entire part of my life. I think that we are lucky to learn new things everyday by doing experiments, reading, and working with different people from different backgrounds. In personal life, I like gardening, cooking food from my country and others. I also love Reggae music and, when I was a student, it took me to many countries around the world in order to attend music festivals.



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