We explore the biology and chemistry of RNA by utilizing in vitro selection techniques to search for new catalytic RNAs in mammalian genomes. Through these RNAs, we look for novel modes of cell regulation. Another way in which we combine the study of RNA biology and chemistry is to use synthetic libraries to select aptamers and ribozymes with designed characteristics. Of particular interest is the selection of fluorogenic molecules that we will use to study RNA in live cells with hitherto unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution. To facilitate the selection process we are developing novel fluorescence-based methods to display and isolate fluorogenic nucleic acids.
As an Innovation Fund investigator, Luptak’s lab is teaming up with the lab of Barbara Golden, 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.