With this award, the Chemistry of Life Processes Program is supporting the research of Professor Michael Harris of the RNA Center at Case Western Reserve University to develop isotope-edited Raman spectroscopy as a new biophysical tool for the study of metal ions associated with backbone phosphate oxygens of RNA. Metal ion binding necessarily changes the chemical environment of neighboring phosphoryl oxygens, resulting in changes in the Raman spectrum. Signature signals in the Raman spectrum can in turn provide valuable information on the nature and position of the metal association. With isotope editing, these studies should allow for the experimental interrogation of specific metal-RNA interactions in solution, at the level of individual phosphates. The quantitative nature of the information gained makes it directly applicable to computational models being developed to describe the structure and energetics of RNA-metal ion binding.
The Broader Impacts of the project will include the development of new tools for chemical biology based upon a combination of isotope-labeling (bioorganic chemistry) and Raman spectroscopy (biophysical chemistry). Success here may translate to broader applications of the technique in biophysical chemistry. The PI will incorporate advanced undergraduates into the research team, with a special emphasis on members of traditionally underrepresented groups in science. Student will have hands-on experience with state of the art instrumentation and participate in data analysis facilitated through small group learning exercises. Thus, an important component of the project is the integration of the research goals into education, providing a training opportunity for the next generation of scientists and engineers.
This research project is being co-funded by the Biomolecular Dynamics, Structure and Function Cluster within the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) Division of the BIO Directorate at NSF.