Assistant Professor Cameron Mura (http://muralab.org) has been awarded a 2014 NSF Career award, funding experimental and computational studies of ancient Sm-based RNA assemblies.
RNA is thought to be the ancestral molecule at the dawn of life, as it can both store information (like DNA) and act as chemical catalyst (like protein enzymes). A remarkable family of ‘Sm’ proteins plays key roles in RNA processing, in organisms ranging from humans to ancient single-celled organisms from the Archaeal branch of life. Sm-mediated pathways vary from RNA splicing in eukaryotes to RNA-regulated inter-cellular communication networks in bacteria. In all these pathways at least one key step is mediated by a molecular assembly built upon Sm proteins. Given the ubiquity of the Sm family in contemporary RNA biology, ancient Sm proteins may have played a role in the pivotal transition from an ancestral RNA World to the ribonucleoprotein (RNP) world of modern life. This NSF project funds the Mura Lab’s (http://muralab.org) studies of Sm systems from deep-branching archaeal and bacterial species. Leveraging both experiment and computation, the project will explore what ancient Sm-based RNP complexes look like (structure), their assembly pathways and dynamical behavior (function), and the interrelationships amongst the many Sm systems and their RNA partners (evolution). The work will help discover how the Sm family evolved into a pervasive scaffold for the construction of RNA-based molecular machines.
The Faculty Early Career Development (Career) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Such activities should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.
UVaToday article: http://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-chemist-receives-nsf-career-award