Feel free to contact Yehu: yehu.moran at mail.huji.ac.il / yehum79 at yahoo.com
Yehu studied from 2001-2010 at Tel Aviv University where he obtained a BSc in Life Sciences, MSc in Biochemistry and PhD working on sea anemone toxins. Then he moved to the lab of Ulrich Technau at the University of Vienna to study the evolution of post-transcriptional regulation by small RNAs. At January 2014 he was appointed as a senior lecturer at the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior of the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and since 2017 he is an Associate Professor at this department.
I am an experimental biologist. I find the interface between bioinformatics, genomics and experimental biology very exciting but I'm not a CS person. I was trained in a wide range of biochemical techniques as my master degree is in biochemistry. In my PhD my topics of research switched more intoevolution and in my postdoc I also added developmental biology into the mix. I believe cnidarians are a wonderful research system if you want to get a perspective about what animal life looked like 600 million years ago since this is when they diverged from the rest of the animals. Despite being considered "primitive" they share with us humans sophisticated cell types, including neurons and muscles. The interesting topics you can study with this system are endless. However, time is limited and we focus on the following topics:
The evolution of small RNA pathways and the roles of microRNAs in Cnidaria
MicroRNAs are small RNAs which were discovered initially in nematodes at 1993. A decade later they were also identified in most other animals and in plants and were shown to play crucial roles in the development of many species. MicroRNAs act through a protein effector complex which binds to messenger RNAs in a specific manner via annealing of the microRNA to the mRNA target and affect the target expression levels. I initialized during my postdoc in Vienna a study on the roles of microRNAs in N. vectensis development. This study is still underway but we already obtained some very exciting findings regarding the involvement of microRNAs in the regulation of expression levels of proteins involved in development of the anemone. Moreover, we have interesting results regarding the mechanism of action of microRNAs in cnidarians suggesting new and unexpected links between the microRNA pathways of plants and animals see our papers in MBE and Genome Research about this topic. This project also received much hype (and somewhat disinformative presentation!) in popular media such as here, here (in English) and here (in Hebrew). You can also read our new review in Nature Ecology and Evolution here. We also recently published the first evidence for the role of microRNAs and piRNAs in Nematostella development and the role of methylation in stabilizing these small RNAs (see here).
Evolution of sea anemone (and other strange animal) toxins
This is a study I initialized as a PhD student in Tel Aviv University at the lab of Prof. Michael Gurevitz and I pursued it further in my postdoc as a side project (toxinology is a very sad addiction) and now as a PI. We published several papers about the unusual evolutionary patterns we discovered in sea anemone and scorpion toxins and speculated regarding the factors driving their selection. In general, animal toxins just like immunology-related proteins are a vast playground for strong adaptive selection as they are involved in a never-ending "arms-race" of prey and predator. We also found evidence for an unusual mode of evolution, called "concerted evolution" in the toxin genes of sea anemones. Further, we also show that the expression of neurotoxins happens in several anemone species such as Nematostella not only in nematocytes (stinging cells) but in gland cells (see here). This finding challenges the common statement presented in many invertebrate zoology textbooks that peptide cnidarian toxins are produced exclusively in nematocytes. The ecological shifts which led to toxin expression in different cell populations of closely-related species are of great interest and open the field to eco-evo studies. We also employed proteomic methods for the study of the venom components of Nematosella nematocytes and recently published those results.
We are nowadays taking advantage on unique tools such as transgenesis techniques that are available in Nematostella for answering questions about the evolution of venom and venom-producing cells. You can see recent examples here and here.
Evolution of ION channels
Voltage-gated sodium channels are pivotal components in the conductance of neuronal signals. The unprecedented extent of sequencing of animal genomes in the last few years has enabled us to study in detail the evolution of these channels. We found that these channels have first appeared in unicellular organisms before the split of fungi and animals, but were independently lost in many lineages. Surprisingly cnidarians have a remarkable diversity of channel isoforms, but most of them cannot discern sodium from calcium and potassium. However, Cnidarians do have a selective channel isoform that evolved more than 540 million years ago in the ancestor of all extant cnidarians. The molecular basis of this selectivity is different from that found in selective sodium channels of bilaterians, indicating that sodium selectivity evolved twice independently in animals, probably in order to comply with the rising need for more complex and faster neuronal transmission. In this work we applied both electrophysiological and phylogenetic methods and a first publication came out in Cell Reports. It was followed by a review paper. Nowadays we also study the function of the DEG/ENaC channels of Nematostella. Members of this channel superfamily exhibit an extraordinary level of functional and gating diversity, leading us to wonder and investigate what might have been their original function in basally-branching animals.
Our research is generously funded by the Binational Science Foundation (BSF), the European Research Council (ERC), German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (GIF), the Israel Council of Higher Learning, the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) and the Marie Curie Actions of the European Commission. We are grateful for this support.
28. Sachkova MY*, Singer SA*, Macrander J, Reitzel AM, Peigneur S, Tytgat J, Moran Y (2019) The birth and death of toxins with distinct functions: a case study in the sea anemone Nematostella. Mol. Biol. Evol. Accepted *equal contribution. pubmed link
27. Sunagar K*, Columbus-Shenkar YY*, Fridrich A, Gutkovitch N, Aharoni R, Moran Y (2018) Cell type-specific expression profiling unravels the development and evolution of stinging cells in sea anemone. BMC Biol. 16: 108. *equal contribution. pubmed link
26. Modepalli V*, Fridrich A*, Agron M*, Moran Y (2018) The methyltransferase HEN1 is required in Nematostella vectensis for microRNA and piRNA stability as well as larval metamorphosis. PLOS Genet. 14: e1007590. *equal contribution. pubmed link
25. Dnyansagar R, Zimmermann B, Moran Y, Praher D, Sundberg P, Møller LF, Technau U (2018) Dispersal and speciation: The cross Atlantic relationship of two parasitic cnidarians. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 126: 346-355. pubmed link
24. Columbus-Shenkar YY*, Sachkova MY*, Macrander J, Fridrich A, Modepalli V, Reitzel AM, Sunagar K, Moran Y (2018) Dynamics of venom composition across a complex life cycle. eLife 7: e35014. *equal contribution. pubmed link
23. Praher D, Zimmermann B, Genikhovich G, Columbus-Shenkar Y, Modepalli V, Aharoni R, Moran Y, Technau U (2017) Characterization of the piRNA pathway during development of the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. RNA Biol. 14: 1727-1741. pubmed link
22. Modepalli V, Moran Y (2017) Evolution of miRNA Tailing by 3' Terminal Uridylyl Transferases in Metazoa. Genome Biol. Evol. 9: 1547-1560. pubmed link
21. Mauri M, Kirchner M, Aharoni R, Ciolli Mattioli C, van den Bruck D, Gutkovitch N, Modepalli V, Selbach M, Moran Y, Chekulaeva M (2017) Conservation of miRNA-mediated silencing mechanisms across 600 million years of animal evolution. Nucleic Acids Res. 45: 938-950 pubmed link
20. Sunagar K, Moran Y (2015) The Rise and Fall of an Evolutionary Innovation: Contrasting Strategies of Venom Evolution in Ancient and Young Animals. PLOS Genet. 11: e1005596. Link.
19. Jouiaei M*, Sunagar K*, Gross AF, Scheib H, Alewood PF, Moran Y#, Fry BG# (2015) Evolution of an ancient venom: recognition of a novel family of cnidarian toxins and the common evolutionary origin of sodium and potassium neurotoxins in sea anemone. Mol. Biol. Evol. 32:1598-610. *equal contribution; #co-corresponding authors. pubmed link
18. Moran Y, Zakon HH (2014) The evolution of the four subunits of voltage-gated calcium channels: ancient roots, increasing complexity and multiple losses. Genome Biol. Evol. 6: 2210-7. pubmed link
17. Gur Barzilai M, Kahn R, Regev N, Gordon D, Moran Y, Gurevitz M (2014) The specificity of Av3 sea anemone toxin for arthropods is determined at linker DI/SS2-S6 in the pore module of target sodium channels. Biochem. J. 463: 271-7. pubmed link
16. Moran Y, Fredman D, Praher D, Li XZ, Wee LM, Rentzsch F, Zamore PD, Technau U, Seitz H (2014) Cnidarian microRNAs frequently regulate targets by cleavage. Genome Res. 24: 651-63. pubmed link
15. Moran Y, Praher D, Fredman D, Technau U (2013) The evolution of microRNA pathway protein components in Cnidaria. Mol. Biol. Evol. 30: 2541-52. pubmed link
14. Orts DJ, Moran Y, Cologna CT, Peigneur S, Madio B, Praher D, Quinton L, De Pauw E, Bicudo JE, Tytgat J, de Freitas JC (2013) BcsTx3 is a founder of a novel sea anemone toxin family of potassium channel blockers. FEBS J. 280: 4839-52. pubmed link
13. Nesher N, Shapira E, Sher D, Moran Y, Tsveyer L, Turchetti-Maia AL, Horowitz M, Hochner B, Zlotkin E (2013) AdE-1, a new inotropic Na+ channel toxin from Aiptasia diaphana, is similar to, yet distinct from, known anemone Na+ channel toxins. Biochem. J. 451: 81-90. pubmed link
12. Moran Y, Praher D, Schlesinger A, Ayalon A, Tal Y, Technau U (2013) Analysis of soluble protein contents from the nematocysts of a model sea anemone sheds light on venom evolution. Mar. Biotechnol. (NY). 15: 329-39. pubmed link
11. Gur Barzilai M, Reitzel AM, Kraus JEM, Gordon D, Technau U, Gurevitz M, Moran Y (2012) Convergent evolution of sodium ion selectivity in metazoan neuronal signaling. Cell Rep. 2: 242-248. pubmed link
10. Moran Y*, Fredman D*, Szczesny P, Grynberg M, Technau U (2012) Recurrent horizontal transfer of bacterial toxin genes to eukaryotes. Mol. Biol. Evol. 29: 2223-2230. *equal contribution. pubmed link
9. Moran Y, Genikhovich G, Gordon D, Wienkoop S, Zenkert C, Özbek S, Technau U, Gurevitz M (2012) Neurotoxin localization to ectodermal gland cells uncovers an alternative mechanism of venom delivery in sea anemones. Proc. R. Soc. B 279: 1351-1358. pubmed link
8. Weinberger H*, Moran Y*,Gordon D, Turkov M, Kahn R, Gurevitz M (2010) Positions under positive selection – key for selectivity and potency of scorpion alpha-toxins. Mol. Biol. Evol. 27: 1025-34. *these authors contributed equally to this work. pubmed link
7. Moran Y, Weinberger H, Lazarus N, Gur M, Kahn R, Gordon D, Gurevitz M (2009) Fusion and retrotransposition events in the evolution of sea anemone neurotoxin genes. J. Mol. Evol. 69: 115-24. pubmed link
6. Cohen L*, Moran Y*, Sharon A, Segal D, Gordon D, Gurevitz M (2009) An innate immunity peptide of Drosophila melanogaster, interacts with the fly voltage-gated sodium channel. J. Biol. Chem. 284: 23558-63. *these authors contributed equally to this work. pubmed link
5. Moran Y, Weinberger H, Reitzel AM, Sullivan JC, Kahn R, Gordon D, Finnerty JR, Gurevitz, M (2008) Intron retention as a post-transcriptional regulatory mechanism of neurotoxin expression at early life stages of the starlet anemone Nematostella vectensis. J. Mol. Biol. 380: 437-43. pubmed link
4. Moran Y, Weinberger H, Sullivan JC, Reitzel AM, Finnerty JR, Gurevitz M (2008) Concerted Evolution of sea anemone neurotoxin genes is revealed through analysis of the Nematostella vectensis genome. Mol. Biol. Evol. 25: 737-47. pubmed link
3. Moran Y, Kahn R, Cohen L, Gur M, Karbat I, Gordon D, Gurevitz M (2007) Molecular analysis of the sea anemone toxin Av3 reveals selectivity to insects and demonstrates the heterogeneity of receptor site-3 on voltage-gated Na-channels. Biochem. J. 406: 41-48. pubmed link
2. Moran Y, Gurevitz M (2006) When positive selection of neurotoxin genes is missing: The riddle of the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. FEBS J. 273: 3886-92. pubmed link
1. Moran Y, Cohen L, Kahn R, Karbat I, Gordon D, Gurevitz M (2006) Mutagenesis of the sea anemone toxin Av2 reveals key amino acid residues important for activity on insect voltage-gated sodium channels. Biochemistry 45: 8864-73. pubmed link
REVIEW, Opinion and Re-Analysis ARTICLES
6. Fridrich A, Hazan Y, Moran Y (2019) Too Many False Targets for MicroRNAs: Challenges and Pitfalls in Prediction of miRNA Targets and Their Gene Ontology in Model and Non-model Organisms. Bioessays 41: e1800169. pubmed link
5. Moran Y, Agron M, Praher D, Technau U (2017) The evolutionary Origin of plant and animal microRNAs. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 1: 0027. pubmed link
4. Sunagar K, Morgenstern D, Reitzel AM, Moran Y (2015) Ecological venomics: How genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics can shed new light on the ecology and evolution of venom. J. Proteomics S1874-3919: 30131-7. pubmed link
3. Moran Y, Gur Barzilai M, Liebeskind BJ, Zakon HH (2015) Evolution of voltage-gated ion channels at the emergence of Metazoa. J. Exp. Biol. 218: 515-525. pubmed link
2. Qiu X, Brown, KV, Moran Y, Chen D (2010) Sirtuin regulation in calorie restriction. Biochim. Biophys. Acta, 1804: 1576-83. pubmed link
1. Moran Y, Gordon D, Gurevitz M (2009) Sea anemone toxins affecting voltage-gated sodium channels - molecular and evolutionary features. Toxicon, 54: 1089-1101. pubmed link
Yehu Moran's lab Room 212, Berman building Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences Faculty of Science Edmond J. Safra campus, Givat Ram The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 9190401 Jerusalem Israel
Email: yehu.moran at mail.huji.ac.il OR firstname.lastname@example.org
Arie and Yael Maria and the FPLC Yaara and a crocodile
The view of western Jerusalem from our lab window Lab excursion to the Jerusalem zoo