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Robert Reenan, PhD

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Robert Reenan

Title: Professor of Biology
Department: Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, & Biochemistry
+1 401 863 6353

Overview | Research | Grants/Awards | Teaching | Publications

We are interested in evolution of brain function and behavior. Our primary model system is Drosophila, the fruit fly, for its powerful traditional and molecular genetics. Our main question is - how do genomes encode and regulate proteins involved in rapid electrical and chemical signaling in the brain, normally and in disease? Surprisingly, this has led us into studies of RNA editing, comparative genomics, small non-coding RNA, heterochromatin, evolution of RNA structure, and inherited neurological disorders.


Robert Reenan trained as a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Kolodner at Harvard Medical School where he studied the process of DNA repair in yeast, discovering genes that would become important in human cancer. He then pursued post-doctoral work in the Laboratory of Genetics at University of Wisconsin-Madison under Dr. Barry Ganetzky. There, he started a lifelong love affair with behavioral neurogenetics studying, in particular, ion channel genes in the fruit fly. He began his independent career at the University of Connecticut Medical School in the Department of Genetics where he discovered the process of RNA editing in the nervous system of the fly. Reenan joined the faculty at Brown University in the summer of 2006.

Research Description

We are interested in evolution of brain function and behavior. Our primary model system is Drosophila, the fruit fly, for its powerful traditional and molecular genetics. Our main question is, how do genomes encode and regulate proteins involved in rapid electrical and chemical signaling in the brain, normally and in disease? Surprisingly, this has led us into studies of RNA editing, comparative genomics, small non-coding RNA, heterochromatin, evolution of RNA structure, and amyloidogenesis.





Funded Research

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALSA)
Investigator Initiated Research Grant #2279

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
EUREKA Award in the Epilepsies - 1R01NS074686-01
"Genetic Suppression studies of human epilepsy mutations in a model genetic system" 02/15/2011 - 01/31/2015 $1,296,000

Michael J. Fox Foundation RRIA
"Accurate Drosophila Genetic Models of LRRK2-based Parkinson's Disease" (Reenan-Principal Investigator) 10/30/2009-10/29/2010

Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar Award (ReenanÃÆ'Ã'¢Ã¢'Ã'¬"Principal Investigator) 11/1/2005-10/31/2009
"Genetic Recoding by RNA Editing and the Aging Process"

Cambridge-Templeton Consortium (UK) (ReenanÃÆ'Ã'¢Ã¢'Ã'¬"Principal Investigator) 9/1/2006-8/31/2008
Emergence of Biological Complexity Grant Competition
"Fine Tuning the Molecules of Behavior in Animals"

National Science Foundation MCB-0424639 (ReenanÃÆ'Ã'¢Ã¢'Ã'¬"Principal Investigator) 8/1/2004-7/31/2007
"Natural History and Functional Evolutionary Studies of A-to-I-pre-mRNA Editing-ARB"


Donaghue Medical Research Foundation F01-107 (ReenanÃÆ'Ã'¢Ã¢'Ã'¬"Principal Investigator) 1/1/2002-8/31/2006
"Neurogenetics of Ion Channel Function and Dysfunction"

Coins for Alzheimer's Research Trust (ReenanÃÆ'Ã'¢Ã¢'Ã'¬"Principal Investigator) 6/1/2004-5/31/2006
"Testing the Amyloid Hypothesis in Drosophila "

National Science Foundation MCB-0091142 (ReenanÃÆ'Ã'¢Ã¢'Ã'¬"Principal Investigator) 3/1/2001-2/28/2004
"Natural History and Functional Evolutionary Studies of A-to-I-pre-mRNA Editing"

NIH 5R01 GM62291-04 (ReenanÃÆ'Ã'¢Ã¢'Ã'¬"Principal Investigator) 5/1/2001-4/30/2006
"Genetic Dissection of A-to-I pre-mRNA Editing in Drosophila"

Patterson Trust (ReenanÃÆ'Ã'¢Ã¢'Ã'¬"Principal Investigator) 1/1/2004-12/31/2005
"Development of a Fruit Fly Model of Alzheimer's Disease"

National Science Foundation MCB-0234648 (ReenanÃÆ'Ã'¢Ã¢'Ã'¬"Principal Investigator) 5/15/2003-4/30/2006
"Insecticide Design: Insights from Venomous Spiders"

Courses Taught

  • GENETICS (BIOL 0470)
  • Neurogenetics and Disease (BIOL2340)

View My Full Publication List in pdf format

Selected Publications

  • Reenan, RA (2014) Correcting mutations by RNA repair. New England Journal of Medicine. 370(2):172-174.(2014)
  • Zhu C, Chang C, Reenan RA, and Helfand SL. (2014) Indy gene variation in natural populations confers fitness advantage and life span extension through transposon insertion. Aging. 6(1):58-69.(2014)
  • Gell SL and Reenan RA. (2013) Mutations to the piRNA Pathway Component aubergine Enhance Meiotic Drive of Segregation Distorter in Drosophila melanogaster. Genetics. 193(3):771-784.(2013)
  • Rieder LE,Staber CJ,Barry Hoopengardner B. & Reenan RA. (2013) Tertiary structural elements determine the extent and specificity of messenger RNA editing. Nature Communications 4:2232 doi:10.1038/ncomms3232(2013)
  • St Laurent G, Tackett MR, Nechkin S, Shtokalo D, Antonets D, Savva SA, Maloney R, Kapranov P, Lawrence CE and RA Reenan. (2013) Genome-wide analysis of A-to-I RNA editing by single-molecule sequencing in Drosophila. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology (in press, Epub Sept.29, 2013) doi:10.1038/nsmb.2675(2013)
  • Savva YA, Jepson JEC, Chang Y, Whitaker R, Jones BC, St Laurent G, Tackett MR, Kapranov P, Jiang N, Du G, Helfand SL, and Reenan RA. (2013) RNA editing regulates transposon-mediated heterochromatic gene silencing. Nature Communications 4:2745 doi:10.1038/ncomms3745(2013)
  • Juliano CE, Reich A, Liu N, Götzfried J, Zhong M, Uman S, Reenan RA, Wessel GM, Steele RE, Lin H. (2013) PIWI proteins and PIWI-interacting RNAs function in Hydra somatic stem cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Dec 23. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:24367095(2013)
  • Rieder LE, Reenan RA. (2012) The intricate relationship between RNA structure, editing, and splicing. Semin Cell Dev Biol. 23(3):281-288.(2012)
  • Jepson JE, Savva YA, Jay KA, Reenan RA. (2012) Visualizing adenosine-to-inosine RNA editing in the Drosophila nervous system. Nature Methods 9(2):189-194.(2012)
  • Garber G, Smith LA, Reenan R, Rogina B. (2012) Effect of sodium channel abundance on Drosophila development, reproductive capacity and aging. Fly 6(1):57-67.(2012)
  • Savva YA, Jepson JE, Sahin A, Sugden AU, Dorsky JS, Alpert L, Lawrence C, Reenan RA. (2012) Auto-regulatory RNA editing fine-tunes mRNA re-coding and complex behaviour in Drosophila. Nature Communications 3:790 doi:10.1038/ncomms1789(2012)
  • Sun L, Gilligan J, Staber C, Schutte RJ, Nguyen V, O'Dowd DK, Reenan R. (2012) A knock-in model of human epilepsy in Drosophila reveals a novel cellular mechanism associated with heat-induced seizure. J Neurosci. 32(41):14145-14155.(2012)
  • Ryan MY, Maloney R, Fineberg JD, Reenan RA, Horn R. (2012) RNA editing in eag potassium channels: Biophysical consequences of editing a conserved S6 residue. Channels 6(6):443-452.(2012)
  • Savva YA, Rieder LE, Reenan RA. (2012) The ADAR protein family. Genome Biology 13(12):252(2012)
  • Staber, C.J., Gell, S., Jepson, J.E. and Reenan, R.A. (2011) Perturbing A-to-I RNA Editing Using Genetics and Homologous Recombination. Methods Mol Biol 718:41-73.(2011)
  • Jepson JE, Savva YA, Yokose C, Sugden AU, Sahin A, Reenan RA. (2011) Engineered alterations in RNA editing modulate complex behavior in Drosophila: REGULATORY DIVERSITY OF ADENOSINE DEAMINASE ACTING ON RNA (ADAR) TARGETS. J Biol Chem. 286(10):8325-37.(2011)
  • Pittendrigh BR, Berenbaum MR, Seufferheld MJ, Margam VM, Strycharz JP, Yoon KS, Sun W, Reenan R, Lee SH, Clark JM. (2011) Simplify, simplify: Lifestyle and compact genome of the body louse provide a unique functional genomics opportunity. Commun Integr Biol. 4(2):188-91.(2011)
  • Bhogal B, Jepson JE, Savva YA, Pepper AS, Reenan RA, Jongens TA. (2011) Modulation of dADAR-dependent RNA editing by the Drosophila fragile X mental retardation protein. Nature Neuroscience. 14(12):1517-1524.(2011)
  • Jepson, J.E. and Reenan, R.A. (2010) Unraveling pleiotropic functions of A-to-I RNA editing in Drosophila. Fly 4(2):154-158.(2010)
  • Horn, R. and Reenan, R. (2010) Channels get in an HUFA: RNA editing gets them out of a jam. EMBO J. 2010 29(13):2097-8. PMID: 20606701(2010)
  • Ingleby, I., Maloney, R., Jepson, J., Horn, R. and Reenan, R. (2009) Regulated RNA editing and functional epistasis in Shaker potassium channels. J. Gen. Phys. 133(1):17-27.(2009)
  • St. Laurent, G., Savva, Y.A and Reenan R. (2009) Enhancing non-coding RNA information content with ADAR editing. Neuroscience Letters 466:89-98.(2009)
  • Jepson, J.E. and Reenan, R.A. (2009) Adenosine-to-inosine genetic recoding is required in the adult-stage nervous system for coordinated behavior in Drosophila. J Biol Chem. 284:31391-31400.(2009)
  • Jepson, J.E. and Reenan, R. (2008) RNA editing in regulating gene expression in the brain. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1779:459-470.(2008)
  • Reenan, R. and Rogina, B. (2008) Acquired temperature-sensitive paralysis as a biomarker of declining neuronal function in aging Drosophila. Aging Cell. 7(2):179-186.(2008)
  • Ryan, M.Y., Maloney, R., Reenan, R. and R. Horn. (2008) Characterization of five RNA editing sites in Shab potassium channels. Channels 2:3, 202-209.(2008)
  • Sixsmith, J. and R.A. Reenan (2007) Comparative genomic and bioinformatic approaches for the identification of new adenosine-to-inosine substrates. Methods in Enzymology 424:245-264.(2007)
  • Jepson, J. and R.A. Reenan (2007) Genetic approaches to studying adenosine-to-insosine RNA editing. Methods in Enzymology 424 :265-287.(2007)
  • Drosophila Comparative Genome Sequencing and Analysis Consortium (2007) Evolution of genes and genomes in the context of the Drosophila phylogeny. Nature 450:203-218.(2007)
  • H.W. Tedford, F. Maggio, R.A. Reenan and G. King. (2007) A model genetic system for testing the in vivo function of peptide toxins. Peptides 28(1):51-56(2006)
  • L.P. Keegan, J. Brindle, A. Gallo, A. Leroy, R.A. Reenan and M.A.O'Connell. (2005) Tuning of RNA editing by ADAR is required in Drosophila. EMBO Journal 24(12): 2183-2193.(2005)
  • R.A. Reenan (2005) Molecular determinants and guided evolution of species-specific RNA editing. Nature 434: 409-413.(2005)
  • D. B. Sattelle, A. K. Jones, B. M. Sattelle, K. Matsuda, R.A. Reenan and P. C. Biggin (2005) Edit, cut and paste in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor gene family of Drosophila melanogaster. Bioessays 27: 366-376.(2005)
  • J.W. Park, K. Parisky, A.M. Celotto, R.A. Reenan and B.R. Graveley (2004). Identification of alternative splicing regulators by RNA interference in Drosophila. P.N.A.S 101:15974-15979.(2004)
  • T. Bhalla, J. Rosenthal, M. Holmgren and R.A. Reenan (2004) Control of human potassium channel inactivation by editing of a small mRNA hairpin. Nature Structural and Molecular Biology 11:950-956(2004)
  • J. Pedra, A. Hostetler, P. Gaffney, R.A. Reenan and B. Pittendrigh. (2004) Hyper-susceptibility to deltamethrin in parats1 DDT resistant Drosophila melanogaster. Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology 78:58-66.(2004)
  • B. Hoopengardner, T. Bhalla, C. Staber, and R.A. Reenan. (2003) Nervous System Targets of RNA Editing Identified By Comparative Genomics. Science 301:832-836.(2003)
  • M. Grauso, R.A. Reenan, E. Culetto, D.B. Sattelle. (2002) Novel Putative Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Subunit Genes, D_5, D_6 and D_7, in Drosophila melanogaster Identify a New and Highly Conserved Target of Adenosine Deaminase Acting on RNA-Mediated A-to-I Pre-mRNA Editing. Genetics 160(4):1519-1533(2002)
  • R.A. Reenan (2001) The RNA World Meets Behavior: A-to-I Pre-mRNA Editing in Animals. Trends in Genetics 17(2):53-55.(2001)
  • M.J. Palladino, L.P. Keegan, M.A. O'Connell and R.A. Reenan (2000) A-to-I pre-mRNA Editing In Drosophila is Primarily Involved in Adult Nervous System Function and Integrity. Cell 102:437-449.(2000)
  • R.L. Martin, B. Pittendrigh, J. Liu, R.A. Reenan, R. ffrench-Constant and D.A. Hanck. (2000) Point Mutations in Domain III of a Drosophila Neuronal Na+ Channel Confer Resistance to Allethrin. Insect Biochem. and Mol. Biol. 30: 1051-1059.(2000)
  • M.J. Palladino, L.P. Keegan, M.A. O'Connell and R.A. Reenan (2000) dADAR, a Drosophila Double-stranded RNA-specific Adenosine Deaminase is Highly Developmentally Regulated and is Itself a Target for RNA Editing. RNA 6:1004(2000)
  • C.J. Hanrahan, M.J. Palladino, B. Ganetzky and R.A. Reenan (2000) RNA Editing of the Drosophila para Na+ Channel Transcript: Evolutionary Conservation and Developmental Regulation. Genetics 155:1149-1160.(2000)
  • Reenan, R.A., Hanrahan, C.J. and Ganetzky, B. (2000) The mlenapts RNA Helicase Mutation in Drosophila Results in a Splicing Catastrophe of the para Na+ Channel Transcript in a Region of RNA editing. Neuron 25: 139-149.(2000)
  • B. Rogina, R.A. Reenan, Nilsen, S.P. and S.L. Helfand (2000) Extended Life Span Conferred by Cotransporter Gene Mutations in Drosophila. Science 290:2137-2140.(2000)