The projects in the Toorlab focus on the structure and function of non-coding regions of prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes. Two genetic elements particularly abundant in these organisms are introns and retroelements. For example, ~50% of the human genome consists of spliceosomal introns and non-LTR retroelements. Both of these are considered to have evolved from a class of introns which originated in bacteria billions of years ago called the group II introns. Group II introns share many structural and/or biochemical features with spliceosomal introns and non-LTR retroelements. Previously, I worked on determining the first crystal structure of a group II intron. This revealed the active site of this ribozyme to contain two catalytic metal ions coordinated by a conserved RNA structural motif called domain V. Since the group II and spliceosomal introns both share this RNA structure, spliceosomal introns should also have the same active site arrangement.


Click on the RNA structure above to interact