$11,216: The Bender Scientific Fund of The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region
A Fluorescence-Based Approach to Investigate Structurally Dynamic Precursor MicroRNAs
Principal Investigator: Colleen Connelly, assistant professor of chemistry
Modern biology embraces an expanded role for RNA, with diverse RNAs having broad functions in regulating gene expression and other biological processes. A large number of noncoding RNAs are associated with human diseases and provide a wealth of previously unrecognized targets for understanding and treating disease. Many of these RNAs adopt discrete structures that are important for their pivotal roles in biology. Often, RNA function can be attributed to its ability to undergo structural changes in response to cellular stimuli. Understanding the factors that modulate these changes is key to assessing the role that RNA structure plays in governing regulatory events.
This research interfaces with chemistry, biology, and biotechnology to investigate RNA structure and function. The project will develop and use chemical tools to probe RNA function by investigating structural changes in specific RNAs. In particular, the study will explore the role that alterative structures play in the processing of microRNAs (miRNAs). The tools developed through this project will provide a method for assessing various factors that could be involved in regulating a structural equilibrium found in some miRNAs, and could reveal important information on miRNA processing in associated diseases. Undergraduate researchers will be involved in this research through summer experiences, as well as research practicums and senior theses. Findings from this work will position PI Connelly to apply for major research grants.