Science Café guest Whitaker to discuss RNA-Metal Interactions

Whitaker-Rachel-webWHAT: University of Nebraska at Kearney Science Café
HOSTED BY: Sigma Xi The Scientific Research Society
SPEAKER / PRESENTER: Rachel Whitaker, UNK assistant professor of biology
TITLE: “RNA-Metal Interactions and Their Effects on Life”
TOPIC: RNA is known to interact with Mg2+ when assuming higher-ordered tertiary configurations. Structurally, when tRNA molecules interact with Mg2+, they consistently form a tRNA isotype-specific “L-shape” conformation each time they are synthesized. Therefore, if Mg2+ can induce tertiary structure formation, then binding to alternative cations could produce alternative tertiary configurations.
Through structural analysis, it was observed that tRNA structure can indeed be altered when in the presence of different metals. Furthermore, it was confirmed through aminoacylating tRNAs when bound to alternative metals resulted in markedly different degrees of activity.
Thus, this research has two major implications: 1) when tRNA complexes with different metals, it can affect its ability to participate in protein synthesis and 2) tRNA could possibly be used in an artificial environment to chelate metals in aqueous solutions. Therefore, this research effort focusing on tRNA-metal interactions could lead to a better understanding of heavy-metal poisoning in humans as well as lay a foundation for biomaterial develop for the removal of metals from aqueous solutions.
TIME: 5:30 p.m.
DATE: Monday, Nov. 7
PLACE: The Loft, Cunningham’s Journal, 15 W. 23rd St., Kearney
CONTACT: Allen A. Thomas, assistant professor of chemistry, 308.865.8452,