Jia Sheng

  • Jia Sheng


    Dr. Sheng’s laboratory focuses on X-ray crystal structure studies of RNA, RNA-small ligand, and RNA-protein complexes. The capacity of RNA to act as both genetic information carrier and catalyst makes it the ideal first biopolymer candidate in the origin of life. Therefore, detailed high-resolution crystal structures can provide a significant foundation for further elucidating RNA functions, developing RNA-based therapeutics, and studying the evolution. Specifically, the new group is starting with two projects centered on RNA crystallography: one is aimed at the structural and mechanistic studies of RNA microsatellite expansions that can cause several neurological and orphan diseases like Huntington’s and Spinal and Bulbar Muscular Atrophy. The structural insights will eventually lead to the rational design of small molecule inhibitors and the discovery of potential therapeutics for these diseases. The other project is to reveal the structural features of several RNA modifications such as thiolation, selenolation and 2’-5’-backbone linkages, under different environments. These natural modifications are not only closely related to many human mitochondrial diseases but also have been regarded as important chemical fossils in studying molecular evolution. Dr. Sheng has broad background in RNA chemical modification, crystallization and phasing technologies, allowing him to be able to systematically determine many RNA crystal structures and offer solid training to the students who are interested in RNA research.