Ribozymes and RNA Machines: RNA forms a variety of complex globular structures, some of which function like enzymes or form functional complexes with proteins. There are three major areas of focus in the lab: catalytic RNA, the function of RNA in the signal recognition particle and the mechanism of RNA-mediated internal initiation of protein synthesis. We are interested in understanding and 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 (HDV), a human pathogen. We are also investigating RNA-mediated initiation of protein synthesis, focusing on the internal ribosome entry site (IRES) RNA from Hepatitis C virus. Cryo-EM, x-ray crystallography and biochemical experiments are focused on 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 in the lab 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.
Medical School, 1989-1991; Post-doctoral fellow, University of Colorado, 1991-1994; Assistant/Associate professor, (1994-1998), Professor, (1999-2001), Yale University. Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, UC Berkeley, (2002-). Howard Hughes Medical Investigator 1997 to present. Packard Foundation Fellow Award, 1996; NSF Alan T. Waterman Award, 2000. Member, National Academy of Sciences, 2002. Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2003; American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow Award, 2008; Member, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2010.