What are we interested in?
Engineering tRNA technology
Our main focus is to design tRNAs which can facilitate the insertion of selenocysteine (Sec) efficiently. Sec is the 21st natural amino acid which is encoded by a stop codon (UGA) - a very suitable place to study this at UGA! Nature has designed regulatory mechanisms to distinguish which UGA codons insert Sec and which ones stop translation, and these differ in all three domains of life. As a result, making proteins containing Sec, or selenoproteins has been a challenge. In the lab we build tRNA libraries and use directed evolution to design and engineer translation systems for site-specific insertion of Sec in all three domains of life!
Building novel selenoproteins
Selenocysteine (Sec) has chemical properties which are similar to cysteine but are known to be more reactive. We want to harness these extraordinary capabilities into building proteins that can be used for industrial or medical applications.
We have 25 selenoproteins in our genome, which are necessary for our function. Selenium, the precursor for selenocysteine, is an essential micronutrient that we obtain from our diet. Through interdisciplinary techniques we will study natural human selenoproteins to understand their function and their connections to diseases.
Our lab has national and international collaborations which bring our research to the next level. These connections are not only pertinent to our research but build your network of scientists. We also lead a very inclusive and open-minded atmosphere where all are welcome and everyone's ideas discussed.