- Research Fellow, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH, 2011-2015
- Research Associate, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 2009-2011
- Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009
- B.S., Peking University, 2002
The goal of our research is to gain a detailed structural and mechanistic understanding of cellular and viral noncoding RNAs and their associated ribonucleoprotein complexes involved in gene regulation and human diseases. We are working to uncover general motifs and principles that govern RNA tertiary structure formation, RNA recognition by another RNA or protein, and how dynamic RNA structures contribute to the regulation of gene expression and human pathophysiology.
- Structures and mechanisms of diverse bacterial T-box riboswitches
- Specific tRNA recognition by host and viral proteins and RNAs
- Differential regulation of antiviral protein PKR by host and viral RNAs
Applying our Research
Structural and mechanistic elucidation of functionally important host noncoding RNAs and viral RNAs will inform and guide design of novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies against bacterial and viral infections, metabolic and autoimmune disorders, and several cancers.
Need for Further Study
Our research aims to help illuminate the molecular structure, function, and mechanisms of the “dark matter” of the transcriptome, the non-coding RNAs that execute various cellular functions, as well as viral RNA structures that enable viral replication and infectivity. Detailed understanding of these non-coding structured RNAs and their interactions will lead to novel therapeutics that improve human health.
- HIV-1 matrix-tRNA complex structure reveals basis for host control of Gag localization.
- Bou-Nader C, Muecksch F, Brown JB, Gordon JM, York A, Peng C, Ghirlando R, Summers MF, Bieniasz PD, Zhang J.
- Cell Host Microbe (2021 Sep 8) 29:1421-1436.e7. Abstract/Full Text
- High-affinity recognition of specific tRNAs by an mRNA anticodon-binding groove.
- Suddala KC, Zhang J.
- Nat Struct Mol Biol (2019 Dec) 26:1114-1122. Abstract/Full Text
Research in Plain Language
Our research focuses on visualizing and understanding ribonucleic acids, or RNAs, that aren't used as templates to make proteins. RNAs are polymers similar to DNA but subtle chemical differences of their composition allow them to fold into elaborate three-dimensional objects and nanomachines, beyond the double-helix shape that DNA form. Complex structures formed by RNA are capable of recognizing and interacting with other molecules in the cell, large and small, with extraordinary affinity and exquisite selectivity, and can even catalyze many chemical reactions. Some viruses are made of RNA, or temporarily take the form of RNA in the cell during their life cycle. We are working to uncover the general principles of how RNA structures are built and organized, how RNA structures move and change their shape, and how RNA interact with proteins and other RNAs in the cell. Such fundamental understanding of RNA will allow new drugs to be developed to modulate these biologically important molecules.