College of Science Distinguished Speaker: A chemical biology toolbox for probing A-to-I RNA editing

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College of Science Distinguished Speaker
A chemical biology toolbox for probing A-to-I RNA editing

Dr. Jennifer Heemstra
Charles Allen Thomas Professor and Chair

Department of Chemistry
Washington University in St. Louis

RNA undergoes extensive modification through enzymatic post-transcriptional editing events. Adenosine-to-inosine (A-to-I) editing is one of the most widespread and impactful of these modifications and is catalyzed by adenosine deaminases acting on RNA (ADARs). Resulting inosines base pair with cytosine, essentially re-coding adenosine sites to guanine. Editing is essential for a number of processes including embryogenesis, neurological function, and innate cellular immunity. Dysfunctional editing is also linked to auto-immune diseases, neurological disorders, and several types of cancer. Despite this importance, numerous challenges remain for studying A-to-I editing, and our overall understanding of the locations and frequency of inosine sites remains limited. To address this challenge, we have repurposed EndoV from an RNA-cleaving enzyme into an RNA-binding protein and demonstrated its use for mapping of A-to-I editing sites and global profiling of RNA inosine content in cells and tissue samples.

Speaker Bio:
Jen Heemstra received her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, Irvine, in 2000. At Irvine, she performed undergraduate research investigating the folding of synthetic beta-sheet mimics, which instilled in her a love of supramolecular chemistry. She then moved to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she completed her Ph.D. in 2005 studying the reactivity of pyridine-functionalized phenylene ethynylene cavitands. After a brief time in industry as a medicinal chemist, she moved to Harvard University to pursue postdoctoral research exploring mechanisms for templated nucleic acid synthesis. Jen began her independent career in 2010 and she is currently the Charles Allen Thomas Professor and Chair in the Department of Chemistry at Washington University in St Louis. Research in the Heemstra lab is focused on harnessing the molecular recognition and self-assembly properties of nucleic acids and proteins for applications in biosensing and bioimaging. In addition to her research, Jen is also actively engaged in science communication, outreach, and advocacy via her social media presence, and professional development seminars and workshops. Outside of work, Jen enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons, as well as rock climbing, cycling, and running. You can check out her research lab here and her blog here.

Intended Audience:
Beginners, undergraduates, graduates, experts. Those with interest in the topic.

A reception will immediately follow in the Gosnell Atrium.
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Alyson Jefferis
Event Snapshot
When and Where
November 29, 2023
1:00 pm - 1:50 pm
Room/Location: A300

Open to the Public

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