Research Interests

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.

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Primary Section

Section 21: Biochemistry

Secondary Section

Section 29: Biophysics and Computational Biology