Viral RNAs in 3-D: Master Hijackers of Cellular Machinery, presented by Jeffrey Kieft, Ph.D., Professor and Vice Chair Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics University of Colorado

October 11, 2022
12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
3232 SW Research Drive
Portland, Oregon 97239
Room: M1441 Vollum Auditorium
Contact Information
Samantha Wagner
CPB Seminar: Dr. Jeffrey Kieft


In 2020, the New York Times published an article describing the roles of the various SARS-CoV2 proteins (“Bad News Wrapped in a Protein; Inside the Coronavirus Genome”). While this article was quite informative, unfortunately it depicted the RNA genome as a squiggly line with no role other than to encode proteins…but we know better! Viruses use RNA in many different and often elegant ways to manipulate the cellular environment and usurp the host machinery. Often, these processes rely on discrete RNA elements within the genome that fold into complex and unexpected three-dimensional structures that interact with their cellular targets to alter their function. Furthermore, because viral RNAs often perform multiple roles, these elements are frequently conformationally dynamic, with overlapping functional and structural parts. Our understanding of this is limited due to the inherent challenge of solving high-resolution structures of RNA and dissecting their dynamics. Our goal is to combine structural biology, virology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, and biophysics methods to understand the three-dimensional structures of important viral RNA elements, their conformational dynamics, how they manipulate the cellular machinery, and how this relates to viral infection. In this presentation, I will present recent discoveries from my lab regarding the three-dimensional structure of a folded viral RNA, revealing how this structure leads to new hypotheses and ideas of broad significance and provides a window into the larger RNA World.