Jessica Chan Rose Hills
Exploring the Helicase Domain of Dicer
My primary work revolves around a eukaryotic pathway known as RNA interference (RNAi) where small RNA molecules regulate gene expression. As the main enzyme responsible for generating these small RNAs, Dicer measures and cleaves a diverse population of RNA molecules into mature fragments primed to control genes. The two main substrates are hairpin RNAswhich are cut into microRNAs (miRNAs)and long duplex RNAswhich are cut into small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). Although many studies have analyzed Dicers ability to cleave RNA, there are still many unanswered questions about how Dicer selects its RNA substrates, which can lead to large changes into which genes are eventually regulated. Dicer is a large protein composed of many distinct parts. One elusive part of the protein is the helicase domain, which is involved in the processing of specific RNA substrates. My research aims to examine how the Dicers helicase domain recognizes the RNA substrates to influence cleavage, using a combination of biochemical and structural techniques.