Our current understanding of nucleic acid biology indicates that RNA plays a number of diverse roles in cellular processes ranging from protein translation and gene regulation to metabolite sensing and adaptive immunity. Concomitant with this functional diversity, is the rich chemical diversity of cellular RNA. To date, over 100 structurally distinct chemical modifications have been found, including both enzymatic and non-enzymatic modifications of the canonical ribonucleotides; however, there is a major gap in our understanding of how these chemical modifications impact RNA function.
Our goal is to decipher the chemical complexity of cellular RNA. Towards this end, we are developing and employing novel approaches integrating chemistry and biology to investigate the functional significance of RNA modifications and the interplay of RNA chemistry with cellular mechanisms regulating RNA function and integrity. Our studies will rely heavily upon synthetic and chemoenzymatic strategies for generating modified nucleic acids, chemical proteomics, and quantitative cellular imaging, and aim to reveal fundamental biological mechanisms maintaining cellular homeostasis.