RNAs play a pivotal role in development and pathology as they stand at the core of gene regulation. To uncover the working principles and biological functions of RNAs, we have been working on RNAs and RNA-binding proteins in stem cells, embryos, cancer, neuronal system, and viruses.

microRNA: The tiny regulators with big roles
microRNAs are small noncoding RNAs involved in virtually all functional aspects of developmental and pathological processes including cell differentiation, proliferation, death, embryogenesis, energy metabolism, and antiviral defense. Tight control of microRNAs is critical for normal functioning of cells, and dysregulation of microRNAs is often responsible for various human diseases. We made contributions to the current understanding of how microRNAs are created and processed by elucidating the mechanism of microRNA biogenesis and identifying several key factors in the biogenesis pathway, including DROSHA, DGCR8, LIN28, and TUTases. We have also been investigating the function and regulation of microRNAs in cancer and stem cells in hopes that our studies will provide new opportunities for cancer treatment and stem cell engineering.

RNA modification: Sometimes, a tail can wag the dog
RNA modification: Sometimes, a tail can wag the dog
RNA modifications often determine the function and fate of the RNA. Detecting and analyzing such modifications is thus crucial in our understanding of RNA-mediated gene regulation. We found that microRNAs are uridylated or adenylated at the 3’ end and that these 3’ tails regulate the biogenesis and stability of microRNAs. More recently, we developed a technique called TAIL-seq that allows the genomic scale investigation of mRNA tails. Using this new tool, we discovered novel types of RNA tails and are currently investigating their functions in the context of development and human diseases.

RNA binding proteins: Essential partners of RNA
RNAs are never alone but form specific complexes with RNA binding proteins that dictate the activity, stability, and localization of the RNA. We are developing new tools to investigate the RNA-protein network, with proteomic tools and sequencing techniques. Untangling this complex network will resolve long-standing questions and advance our understanding of the functions and mechanisms of RNAs in post-transcriptional gene regulation.

SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19
For viruses to replicate their genome and evade their host’s defense system, it is crucial to manipulate the RNA pathways. We are working on viruses that cause major global health issues. In particular, we are currently focusing on SARS-CoV-2 to understand its RNA replication, RNA modification, and immune evasion mechanisms. We are hoping to help the ongoing global efforts to combat SARS-CoV-2.

Welcome to RNA world
We welcome postdoc/student applications from all around the world and all areas of biology, in particular proteomics, bioinformatics, structural biology, and molecular cell biology. For more information and inquiries, please email us at narrykimATsnu.ac.kr.

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