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5th Zing Nucleic Acids Conference

Professor York and three graduate students - Colin, Ken, and Junjie - attended the 5th Zing Nucleic Acids Conference. Understanding processes involving DNA and RNA at the molecular and chemical level is the central theme of this conference. DNA is a repository of genetic information and must be accurately copied once and only once in each cell cycle. Its integrity is vital to the cell, and it is the only molecule that is repaired if damage occurs. By contrast RNA is the ‘working substance’ of genetics and an extremely versatile molecule. Of course it is the messenger that passes the information between DNA and protein synthesis, yet it does so much more. It is the key component of the ribosome, as well as the tRNA species involved in translation. RNA can act as a molecular switch responding to small molecules in order to control gene expression, and can also accelerate chemical reactions by a million fold or more in the manner of an enzyme. Increasingly we realize that RNA is also involved in critical and complex regulatory processes. Indeed while most of the information in DNA is not protein coding, almost all of it is transcribed into RNA. We are only just beginning the long journey of understanding what all this non-coding RNA is doing – it is truly the ‘dark matter’ of biology!