PhotoNotAvailable Scott W. Blume, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology

Areas of Focus: Gene-specific translational regulation, internal ribosome entry site, RNA-binding proteins, IGF1R and c-myc

Contact Information
BBRB 765
(205) 975-2409


     Our lab is investigating the intricate physiological mechanisms regulating gene expression at the translational (RNA to protein) level.   The transcripts of genes controlling cell proliferation and survival contain complex 5’-untranslated sequences which function essentially as “RNA promoters”, with structural features and regulatory protein binding sites that make possible the modulation of translational efficiency of individual mRNAs.  Our research is assessing how such gene-specific translational control mechanisms may be altered in human tumor cells, focusing in particular on the proto-oncogenes IGF1R and c-myc.  The human IGF1R mRNA contains an extraordinarily long (1,038 nucleotides) 5’-untranslated region, which is inherently a very poor substrate for translation initiation mediated by conventional ribosomal scanning.  However, we have determined that the IGF1R mRNA can also be translated through the use of an internal ribosomal entry site (IRES), which maps to an 85 nucleotide segment of the 5’-UTR just upstream of the IGF1R initiation codon.  We are profiling the sequence-specific RNA-binding proteins that differentially control IRES activity, and accumulating evidence that changes in the activities of these IRES-regulatory proteins may be responsible for IGF1R over-expression in a proportion of human breast tumors.

     We have also begun to characterize a previously hypothetical protein, designated mrtl, which is encoded within the “5’-untranslated” region of the c-myc mRNA, upstream of the Myc coding sequence.  Confocal imaging and co-immunoprecipitation data indicate that mrtl is closely associated with ribosomes and translation initiation factors, and results obtained utilizing northwestern analyses, inducible ectopic over-expression, and a dominant negative strategy suggest that mrtl may function physiologically to regulate Myc translation and localization to the nucleus.  Current studies are addressing the potential contribution of mrtl to Myc-associated breast oncogenesis.  We are exploring both the IGF1R IRES and the mrtl-Myc relationship as potential targets for development of novel molecular therapeutic interventions.

High resolution Northwestern profiling of sequence-specific RNA-protein interactions involving the IGF1R 5’-UTR.
The northwestern is a functional assay of RNA-binding activity performed in solid phase under highly stringent conditions.  Protein extracts obtained from cultured or primary cells are separated by SDS/PAGE, transferred, then renatured and exposed to an RNA (sense orientation) probe of interest. 

Here we are examining the pattern of regulatory protein binding to the 5’-untranslated region of the human type 1 insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF1R) mRNA.  IGF1R is a potent proto-oncogene implicated in the pathogenesis of many human tumors.  Like many other proto-oncogenes, IGF1R expression is regulated not only at the transcriptional level, but also at the translational (RNA to protein) level, through interactions with sequence-specific RNA-binding proteins. 

In particular, the IGF1R 5’-UTR contains an internal ribosomal entry site (IRES), which allows the translational efficiency of the IGF1R mRNA to be modulated in a precise and very specific manner.  The results shown here demonstrate changes in affinity for certain IRES-regulatory proteins in association with site-directed mutations that either increase or decrease IRES function.  Upregulation of IRES activity may be a mechanism underlying pathological over-expression of IGF1R in human tumors.


      Dr. Scott Blume received his B.S. degree from the University of Alabama in 1982 with a major in biochemistry.  He went on to receive his M.D. degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in 1986.  Dr. Blume did his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Donald A. Miller from 1987-1991 at UAB.  He joined the faculty as a Research Instructor in 1991, and is currently an Assistant Professor.