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Otago Medical School staff profiles

Dr Sarah Diermeier

PositionLecturer & Rutherford Discovery Fellow
DepartmentDepartment of Biochemistry
QualificationsMSc, PhD
Research summaryCancer Research & RNA Biology

Research

The overarching research questions of our group are (i) to identify novel therapeutic targets in cancer and (ii) to decipher the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of oncogene regulation.

Recent publications revealed that only 1-2% of the human genome encodes for proteins but as much as 75% of the genome can be transcribed. These non-coding transcripts comprise the majority of RNA molecules in the cell and bear exciting potential to pursue as therapeutic targets and diagnostic markers. Our group investigates the role of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), the largest and most diverse class of non-coding transcripts. We focus on metastatic breast and colorectal cancer, as these types of cancer are major health concerns in New Zealand and world-wide. Our research combines bioinformatics, CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, cancer biology, single-cell transcriptomics and preclinical research using organoids and mouse models. In addition to translational research, we are interested in studying the molecular mechanisms by which lncRNAs act in the cell.

Current research projects include:

  • Identifying novel lncRNA drivers of tumour growth and metastasis using CRISPR screens
  • Developing nucleic acid therapeutics to target lncRNAs in cancer
  • Elucidating the molecular mechanism of lncRNAs in the cell
  • Studying the impact of lncRNAs on tumour evolution
  • Investigating the RNA interactome and structurome in cancer
  • Identifying new lncRNAs and circRNAs as diagnostic and prognostic markers

Diermeier Lab outing at Moeraki boulders
The 2019 Diermeier Lab retreat

Funding

Funding for our research has been provided by the Royal Society Te Aprangi, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Susan G. Komen, the Cancer Society NZ, the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation, the Maurice Wilkins Centre, Otago Innovation Ltd and the University of Otago.

Publications

Rana, Z., Diermeier, S., Hanif, M., & Rosengren, R. J. (2020). Understanding failure and improving treatment using HDAC inhibitors for prostate cancer. Biomedicines, 8(2), 22. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines8020022

Arun, G., Diermeier, S. D., & Spector, D. L. (2018). Therapeutic targeting of long non-coding RNAs in cancer. Trends in Molecular Medicine, 24(3), 257-277. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2018.01.001

Diermeier, S. D., Chang, K.-C., Freier, S. M., Song, J., El Demerdash, O., Krasnitz, A., … Spector, D. L. (2016). Mammary tumor-associated RNAs impact tumor cell proliferation, invasion, and migration. Cell Reports, 17(1), 261-274. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.08.081

Arun, G., Diermeier, S., Akerman, M., Chang, K.-C., Wilkinson, J. E., Hearn, S., … Spector, D. L. (2016). Differentiation of mammary tumors and reduction in metastasis upon Malat1 lncRNA loss. Genes & Development, 30(1), 34-51. doi: 10.1101/gad.270959.115

Journal - Research Article

Arun, G., Diermeier, S. D., & Spector, D. L. (2018). Therapeutic targeting of long non-coding RNAs in cancer. Trends in Molecular Medicine, 24(3), 257-277. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2018.01.001

Arun, G., Diermeier, S., Akerman, M., Chang, K.-C., Wilkinson, J. E., Hearn, S., … Spector, D. L. (2016). Differentiation of mammary tumors and reduction in metastasis upon Malat1 lncRNA loss. Genes & Development, 30(1), 34-51. doi: 10.1101/gad.270959.115

Diermeier, S. D., Chang, K.-C., Freier, S. M., Song, J., El Demerdash, O., Krasnitz, A., … Spector, D. L. (2016). Mammary tumor-associated RNAs impact tumor cell proliferation, invasion, and migration. Cell Reports, 17(1), 261-274. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.08.081

Diermeier, S., Kolovos, P., Heizinger, L., Schwartz, U., Georgomanolis, T., Zirkel, A., … Papantonis, A. (2014). TNFα signalling primes chromatin for NF-κB binding and induces rapid and widespread nucleosome repositioning. Genome Biology, 15(12), 536. doi: 10.1186/s13059-014-0536-6

Diermeier, S. D., Németh, A., Rehli, M., Grummt, I., & Längst, G. (2013). Chromatin-specific regulation of mammalian rDNA transcription by clustered TTF-I binding sites. PLoS Genetics, 9(9), e1003786. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003786

Schubert, T., Pusch, M. C., Diermeier, S., Benes, V., Kremmer, E., Imhof, A., & Längst, G. (2012). Df31 protein and snoRNAs maintain accessible higher-order structures of chromatin. Molecular Cell, 48(3), 434-444. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2012.08.021

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Journal - Research Other

Rana, Z., Diermeier, S., Hanif, M., & Rosengren, R. J. (2020). Understanding failure and improving treatment using HDAC inhibitors for prostate cancer. Biomedicines, 8(2), 22. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines8020022

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