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The Desaulniers research group uses tools of organic chemistry, biochemistry, biophysical chemistry, and molecular biology to target, probe, and understand various components of gene expression. Organic chemistry is a powerful research tool for biology, because it allows us to answer key questions of biological importance. Diverse projects in our group range from the use of synthetic organic chemistry to generate new molecules with potential beneficial properties, to cell-based biological characterization of macromolecular-ligand interactions. Our group is multidisciplinary and we work together to achieve common goals. Students wishing to explore possible research projects are invited to stop by my office at any time.

Current Research Areas in Chemical Biology


1) Chemically Modifying Short Interfering RNAs

One aspect of our research involves utilizing a natural pathway of gene silencing called RNA interference. RNA interference relies on targeting specific genes with short interfering RNAs (siRNAs). Natural duplex siRNAs have shown promising results, but their long-term potential as therapeutics for modern medicine are limited due to their ability to readily decompose, pass poorly across cellular membranes, and exhibit off-target effects. Modifying these RNAs with unnatural functional groups offers promising strategies in overcoming these obstacles. Ultimately, our long-term goals are focused on investigating and predicting the effects that different unique chemical modifications within siRNAs have on its gene target.


2) Targeting Protein-Protein Interactions Involved in Translation

The other aspect of our research program involves using chemical approaches to probe the initiation complex of ribosomal protein synthesis. Much of gene expression is governed by the fidelity of the ribosome to translate a particular messenger RNA, and as such, our lab is investigating the effect that artificial ligands impart on the ability to modify gene expression levels.

Group Meetings

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