RNA Biology

Photo: RNA and protein have closely co-evolved.

Photo: RNA and protein have closely co-evolved. Pictured are U6 small nuclear RNA (red) and its chaperone protein Prp24 (black). Prp24 passes through the large single-stranded loop of U6 and contacts the RNA with three of its four globular “RRM” domains. (PDB: 4n0t)

Life on Earth is thought to have begun in an RNA world more than 3 billion years ago. Today, RNA continues to be of vital importance to cellular function. It can both catalyze biochemical reactions (the ribosome is a ribozyme) and transmit genetic information. RNA can also guide protein enzymes to specific sites in DNA or RNA, as occurs in CRISPR-Cas function.

RNAs have evolved to work closely with proteins, forming ribonucleoprotein complexes (RNPs). Many nanomachines of the cell are RNPs, including the ribosome, spliceosome, telomerase, and signal recognition particle. RNAs regulate transcription both directly, as is the case for E. coli 6S RNA, and indirectly, as in X chromosome inactivation in mammals by Xist. RNA-binding proteins autoregulate their synthesis by binding to their mRNAs and attenuating transcription, splicing, or translation.

The early steps of embryo development are regulated by maternal mRNA translation since zygotic transcription begins only after several cell divisions. Small non-coding RNAs contained in sperm can convey paternal epigenetic information to the developing zygote. Viral RNAs invade cells to wrest control of the genetic program but can be silenced by cellular RNAs. Many diseases are caused by defects in RNA synthesis and processing, and synthetic RNAs are currently used to treat a few of these diseases.

Labs in the CMB RNA Biology focus group are working to expand the frontiers of our knowledge of RNA function, using approaches ranging from genetics and genomics to single-molecule microscopy and cryo-EM. We invite you to join us in this exciting endeavor. Please visit the web sites of RNA Biology focus group members to see details of our current research. You can view the speakers who participate in our monthly RNA club (RNA MaxiGroup) here.


Focus Group Chair David Brow
Biomolecular Chemistry Department
DNA transcription and RNA splicing in yeast

Focus Group Members

Jacob Brunkard

Credentials: Genetics Department

Position title: Molecular mechanisms regulating plant metabolism

Email: brunkard@wisc.edu

Zachary Campbell

Credentials: Anesthesiology Department

Position title: Molecular mechanisms of pain

Email: zcampbell@wisc.edu

Silvia Cavagnero

Credentials: Chemistry Department

Position title: Protein folding and aggregation in the cell, molecular chaperones, role of the ribosome in protein folding

Email: cavagnero@chem.wisc.edu

Marta Gaglia

Credentials: Medical Microbiology and Immunology

Position title: Virus-host interactions in influenza viruses and herpes viruses

Email: Marta.Gaglia@wisc.edu

Wei Guo

Credentials: Animal Health & Biomedical Sciences

Position title: Muscle Structure and Function, RNA Biology

Email: wguo2@wisc.edu

Betul Kaçar

Credentials: Bacteriology Department

Position title: Origins and early evolution of life, ancient proteins, functional evolution over geologic time

Email: bkacar@wisc.edu

Andrew Mehle

Credentials: Medical Microbiology & Immunology Department

Position title: Influenza virus replication machinery

Email: amehle@wisc.edu

Francisco Pelegri

Credentials: Genetics Department

Position title: Genetic control of zebrafish embryogenesis

Email: fjpelegri@wisc.edu

Andrea Putnam

Credentials: Biomolecular Chemistry

Position title: RNA condensates in development

Email: aaputnam@wisc.edu

Aurelie Rakotondrafara

Credentials: Plant Pathology Department

Position title: RNA, translation, plant virus, IRES, viral resistance

Email: rakotondrafa@wisc.edu

Gail Robertson

Credentials: Neuroscience Department

Position title: Molecular mechanisms of ion channel disease

Email: garobert@wisc.edu

Michael Sheets

Credentials: Biomolecular Chemistry Department

Position title: Molecular mechanisms regulating early vertebrate development

Email: mdsheets@wisc.edu

Nathan Sherer

Credentials: Oncology Department

Position title: Cell biology of HIV replication

Email: nsherer@wisc.edu

Ahna Skop

Credentials: Genetics Department

Position title: Role of mRNAs in cell division and pluripotency; Neurodegeneration

Email: skop@wisc.edu

Lloyd Smith

Credentials: Chemistry Department

Position title: Development and application of novel bioanalytical methods; new instrumentation and chemistries for biological mass spectrometry and biologically modified surfaces

Email: smith@chem.wisc.edu

Marcelo Vargas

Credentials: Neurology Department

Position title: Cell and molecular biology of astrocytes. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Email: mvargas@wisc.edu

Donna Werling

Credentials: Genetics Department

Position title: Genomics of brain development and disorders

Email: dwerling@wisc.edu

Marvin Wickens

Credentials: Biochemistry Department

Position title: RNA and gene control; role of RNA regulation in development and the nervous system

Email: wickens@biochem.wisc.edu

Justin Wolter

Credentials: Genetics Department

Position title: Molecular mechanisms of neurodevelopmental disorders

Email: wolter4@wisc.edu

Jerry Yin

Credentials: Genetics Department

Position title: Cellular/molecular mechanisms of memory formation and psychiatric dysfunction

Email: jcyin@wisc.edu

Xinyu Zhao

Credentials: Neuroscience Department

Position title: Epigenetic regulation, neural stem cells, neurodevelopment, noncoding RNA, RNA binding protein, learning and memory

Email: xinyu.zhao@wisc.edu