While DNA acts as the hard drive of the cell, storing the instructions to make all of the proteins the cell needs to carry out its various duties, another type of genetic material, RNA, takes on a wide variety of tasks, including gene regulation, protein synthesis, and sensing of metals and metabolites. Each of these jobs is handled by a slightly different molecule of RNA. But what determines which job a certain RNA molecule is tasked with? Primarily its shape. Julius Lucks, a biological and chemical engineer at Northwestern University, and his team study the many ways in which RNA can bend itself into new shapes and how those shapes dictate the jobs the RNA molecule can take on.
In this video, Luck describes a sequencing technology, called Shape-Seq, that he has created to help identify the shape of any given molecule of RNA. With this information in hand, Lucks’ lab can figure out how certain RNA molecules may impact various aspects of human health, and may inspire the development of new treatments for disease.
Dr. Lucks’ work is funded in part by the NIH under grant 7DP2GM110838.