The focus of our research is the structure and folding of functional RNAs. Unlike proteins, RNAs have a highly charged backbone, only 4 different monomeric units (compared to the 20 amino acids that make up proteins) and functional groups that are largely sequestered within the major and minor grooves of the double helix. Yet, in the presence of magnesium ion, many RNA molecules have stable, globular, tertiary structures that support biological catalysis. To understand how these molecules fold and function, we are investigating the structure and function of these RNA molecules using biochemistry, molecular biology and X-ray crystallography.
As an Innovation Fund investigator, Golden’s lab is teaming with the lab of Andrej Luptak, Ph.D., to develop a programmable RNA enzyme, or ribozyme, that can be used to build new customized proteins. The idea, born in Golden’s laboratory, will allow researchers to artificially incorporate specific markers and modify proteins for diverse biotechnological purposes (e.g., protein tracking and drug enhancement), and enhance the study of fundamental biological processes.