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Adrian Ferré-D'Amaré received his B.S. in chemistry from the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey, in Mexico, and his Ph.D. in molecular biophysics from the Rockefeller University. He has been named a Rita Allen Foundation Scholar and a W.M. Keck Foundation Distinguished Young Scholar in Medical Research.
Despite its chemical simplicity (compared to proteins) RNA can fold into intricate three-dimensional structures that can recognize other RNAs, proteins and small molecules with high affinity and specificity and carry out biological catalysis. We employ structural, biophysical, biochemical, and in vitro genetic techniques, as well as chemical synthesis, to study ribozymes, riboswitches, and ribonucleoprotein complexes.
We study ribozymes (catalytic RNAs), both cellular and in vitro selected, because they starkly demonstrate the chemical versatility of this nucleic acid. We study riboswitches. These are RNA elements of non-coding regions of messenger RNAs that can switch between two functional states, depending on whether they are bound to a metabolite. Riboswitches are used by bacteria and eukaryotes to regulate gene expression at the transcriptional, post-transcriptional, and translational levels. We study protein enzymes responsible for post-transcriptional modification of RNAs. These modifications expand the chemical repertoire of the nucleic acid; the enzymes responsible may also serve as chaperones, facilitating RNA folding in vivo. We study a family of protein enzymes called pseudouridine synthases. These are responsible for the most abundant and phylogenetically conserved modification of cellular RNAs.