In the Gregory lab, I will investigate whether changes in the chemical modification of RNA molecules play a role in the development of human cancers. In all cells, RNAs perform a variety of functions, including synthesizing proteins. While messenger RNAs provide the instructions for producing a protein, transfer RNAs “read” the information in that message and supply the necessary amino acid building blocks. To function properly, these transfer RNAs must fold into the correct three-dimensional shape—a process that requires the RNA to be chemically modified. One of these modifications, the addition of a methyl group, is carried out by an enzyme complex that is elevated in some cancers. Using techniques in chemical and molecular biology and genetics, bioinformatics, and nucleotide sequencing, I will assess how alterations in the activity of this methyltransferase enzyme affect the global patterns of methylation in normal cells and in human cancer cells. Preliminary results indicate that artificially boosting the production of the key components of this enzyme complex can cause cells to become cancerous, and I will determine whether such cells can form tumors when injected into mice. These findings will provide insights into the mechanisms that drive cancer and a novel target for the treatment of cancers that feature enhanced activity of this methyltransferase complex.