Maria Spletter (she/her/hers)

Maria Spletter
Assistant Professor
Science and Engineering

Contact Info
505B SH
Developmental genetics, Drosophila biology, regulation of cytoskeleton assembly and function in muscle, RNA regulation and alternative splicing, transcriptomics and bioinformatic analysis, biochemistry and molecular mechanisms of RNA-binding protein function


I grew up in a small, rural community in northern Wisconsin. Early experiences with farming, forestry and conservation biology fostered my innate curiosity about the natural world, and encouraged me to pursue a career in the biological sciences. Fascinated by genetics and development in college, and captured by the thrill of scientific discovery, I was pulled into the world of research and have never looked back. My career has taken me to California, Germany and back to the Midwest, exposing me to diverse researchers, cultures and education systems, and enabling me to integrate developmental genetics with cell biology, transcriptomics and biochemistry in my professional career.

My research interests lie in understanding how the regulation of RNA processing and alternative splicing defines the structure and function of muscles. Our bodies contain hundreds of different muscles that have distinct morphological and contractile properties. In muscle disease and atrophy, changes in RNA regulation contribute to muscle malfunction. To understand how these changes alter muscle biology, we use the powerful genetic model organism Drosophila melanogaster. Many of the RNA binding proteins that regulate RNA processing in muscle, such as CELF, RBFOX and MBNL family proteins, are also found in flies, and structural components as well as the mechanism of muscle contraction are highly conserved. We focus on how changes in gene isoform expression alter the construction of the myofibril cytoskeleton and the regulation of actomyosin interactions. We employ a wide variety of experimental techniques, merging classic genetic analysis with live-imaging, confocal microscopy, biochemistry, and transcriptomics. Our work provides disease-relevant insight into the developmental functions of RNA binding proteins, affords a more detailed understanding of the process of sarcomere assembly and reveals conserved mechanisms by which muscles employ RNA regulation to fine-tune their contractile properties.


Ph.D., Biological Sciences, Stanford University, 2010
B.S., Botany and Molecular Biology, University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2003