Welcome to the RNA Center!

The Center for Molecular Biology of RNA was founded at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1992 with a grant from the Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust. Its mission is to promote the interdisciplinary study of the structure, function and biological roles of RNA. A major focus is to bring together researchers studying RNA structure by X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy with groups studying RNA function. Another focus is to promote the interface between bioinformatics and RNA molecular biology. Among the research topics under investigation in the Center are catalytic RNA ("ribozymes"), the structure and function of ribosomes, the mechanism of pre-mRNA splicing, regulation of alternative splicing in eukaryotic gene expression, computational analysis of small cellular RNAs and RNA genomics.

Areas of Focus

  • RNA and disease.

    Many human diseases are caused by genetic defects in cellular RNAs or by RNA viruses. We are discovering RNA’s role in diseases such as myotonic dystrophy, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. We anticipate that the results of this research will lead to new targeted treatments.

  • RNA and the human genome.

    While most of the human genome is transcribed into RNA, only a small amount of that codes for the proteins that carry out most activities in the life of the cell. What are the other biological roles of RNA in the genome? We believe the answers will be transformative in our understanding of human development and the origins of life.

  • RNA technologies for discovery.

    Nanopore sequencing technology invented at UC Santa Cruz is about to revolutionize the study of the function and fate of RNA in the cell. Nanopore detectors are built around a membrane containing a tiny pore called an ion channel, just big enough to allow a single strand of DNA or RNA to pass through, enabling sequencing devices that are fast, compact, and portable enough to be used on the International Space Station.

  • Future RNA scientists.

    Our commitment to carrying forward what we learn includes the Undergraduate Biomedical Research Initiative, a donor-funded pilot program to engage 40 to 60 students in RNA-related research projects. The project is also developing internship partnerships with biotech companies.

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RNA Researchers