Jennifer A. Doudna
University of California, Berkeley
Election Year: 2002
Primary Section: 21, Biochemistry
Secondary Section: 29, Biophysics and Computational Biology
Membership Type: Member
My research centers on determining the molecular structures of RNA molecules as the basis for understanding their biological function. There are three major areas of focus in my laboratory: catalytic RNA, the function of RNA in the signal recognition particle, and the mechanism of RNA-mediated internal initiation of protein synthesis. I am interested in comparing catalytic strategies used by RNA to those of protein enzymes, focusing on self-splicing introns and the self-cleaving RNA from hepatitis delta virus, a human pathogen. I am also investigating RNA-mediated initiation of protein synthesis, focusing on the internal ribosome entry sites (IRES) of RNA from hepatitis C virus. Cryo-EM, X-ray crystallography, and biochemical experiments are aimed at understanding the structure and mechanism of the IRES and its amazing ability to hijack the mammalian ribosome and associated translation factors. A third area of focus is the signal recognition particle, which contains a highly conserved RNA required for targeting proteins for export out of cells. Each of these projects seeks to understand the molecular basis for RNA function, using a combination of structural, biophysical, and biochemical approaches.