RNA-protein interactions are essential to most biological processes and as such they represent promising candidates for the development of novel applications for biotechnology and medicine. Unfortunately, the potential of these systems is limited given our poor understanding of the specific features that mediate the intermolecular recognition, interaction, and assembly of these molecules. Our research focuses on innovating in vivo technologies to understand and engineer cellular regulation in non-model (extremophilic) microbes for enhanced production of chemicals, as well as for environmental and biomedical applications. Our approaches combine molecular engineering, classic genetic and biochemical approaches as well as high-throughput RNA sequencing, proteomics, and computational methods to engineer complex regulatory networks that are coupled to environmental stress responses. Current efforts include: (i) discovery of novel regulatory RNAs from ethanologenic bacteria to engineer higher cellular tolerance to alcohols (and other chemicals), (ii) discovery and characterization of regulatory networks in radioresistant bacteria for novel biosensory technologies, (iii) engineering of novel biosensors to evaluate effects of environmental agents in the behavior of human cells, and (iv) rational engineering of RNAs based on structure-function relationships.
Specific research areas of interest in the lab include:
- Understanding RNA-protein assembly mechanisms during stress responses
- Studying protein-induced RNA conformational changes
- Characterizing sRNA-mediated regulation in extremophiles
- Engineering synthetic RNA elements inspired by natural systems
- Rational design of regulatory RNAs based on structure-function relationships