The long-term goal of our research group is to understand how three dimensional structures determine mechanisms of RNA-mediated gene-regulation. Only about 2% of the transcribed genome is estimated to be coding for protein. How do the rest--non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs)-- work? How are ncRNAs recognized and what do they recognize? How do structural elements contribute to the activity of ncRNAs?
We are interested in mechanisms of ncRNAs, especially when they are involved in regulation of gene expression important for human diseases. A particular family of ncRNAs that we are focusing on are microRNAs. MicroRNAs are critical in development of various human diseases including cancer. To obtain mature, active form of microRNAs, various processing steps are required. Knowing how microRNAs work and how they are regulated provide the framework for us to discover ways to intervene and identify new avenues for therapeutics.
To elucidate detailed molecular mechanism, our approach often involves 3D structure determination combined with biochemical dissection. Some of the employed techniques include X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, molecular biology, various biochemical methods, high throughput sequencing, electron microscopy, and eukaryotic cell-based studies.