What is RNA?
RNA stands for ribonucleic acid, an abundant biomolecule that is found in every living cell and that is structurally related to DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the keeper of genetic information. The most well-known role of RNA is as messenger RNA (mRNA), an RNA copy of gene in the DNA, which is used by the cells protein manufacturing machinery (the ribosomes) to produce the specific protein that is coded by the gene. Two more well-known types of RNA are: transfer RNA (tRNA), an adaptor molecule that carries a specific amino acid to the ribosome to be incorporated in the protein, based on the code of the mRNA, and ribosomal RNA (rRNA), RNA that is a component of the ribosome (about 60% by weight).
For many years, RNA was only thought to have the three roles described above. However, in recent years, we have begun to realize that RNA can play roles that are much broader and more interesting. Some examples include RNA acting as an enzyme (ribozyme), RNA as the carrier of genetic information (RNA virus or ribovirus), RNA used for splicing (small nuclear RNA, or snRNA), RNA involved in nucleotide modification of other RNA molecules (small nucleolar RNA, or snoRNA), and RNA responsible for gene regulation (microRNA and small interfering RNA, or miRNA and siRNA, respectively). This is not a comprehensive list of RNA types that are currently recognized, and there may be more that we have not yet discovered.
Why is RNA research important?
The significance of RNA research is broad and far-reaching, with impacts in medical research and in the development of innovative non-medical technologies. RNA plays a critical role in many cellular processes and alterations in RNA function often lead to diseases. Moreover, RNA is a major building block in the cell and critically contributes to the construction of nano(bio)machines. RNA research generates new molecular tools that can be used in research, diagnostics, and also as therapies.
What RNA research is being done at ARRTI?
The research being done by ARRTI members and trainees covers a wide variety of RNA types and research goals. Some examples include the biochemistry of ribosome biogenesis and tRNA maturation, RNA synthetic biology for energy production, molecular modeling to develop chemically modified nucleic acids for medicine, and many more. We take a variety of approaches, including mathematical modeling, computer simulations, and a wide range of laboratory approaches. For more information on the research occurring with ARRTI, please explore the links to the left for information about the eight different research groups.