Influence of nanoparticles on RNA structure and function
Vickie DeRose, Chemistry
As the development of nano-scale materials progresses, it is important to understand how these materials may influence the physical and chemical properties of biological macromolecules such as RNA. RNA molecules carry a large negative electrostatic potential, attract an atmosphere of cationic counterions, and have nanoscale regions of architecture that may associate strongly with nanoparticles in a materials-dependent manner. The goals of this research are to investigate such associations and their consequences to RNA structure and function. As an initial screen for binding and structure changes, the activity of a ribozyme (catalytic RNA) will be used to monitor influences of nanoparticles on RNA.
Students working on this project will learn to perform kinetic assays for RNA reactivity based on the hammerhead ribozyme, a 65-nucleotide RNA whose activity is very sensitive to structure and cations. REU students will then investigate the influence of different nanoparticles, Ga (13) metal clusters and size- and ligand-shell-controlled Au nanoparticles on the RNA catalyst using the kinetic assay for ribozyme activity. Depending on timeframe, students will either use materials provided by the Johnson and Hutchison laboratories, or synthesize and characterize their own materials. These experiments will provide cross-training in important concepts of kinetics, biopolymer structure, handling and possibly synthesizing nanomaterials, and quantitative analysis of complex molecules.