Marlene Belfort

  • Marlene Belfort


    Dr. Belfort’s group studies autocatalytic introns and inteins, dynamic sequences that interrupt genes and are spliced at the RNA and protein levels, respectively. The intron and intein work is independently funded and provides ample training opportunities for graduate students. The focus of the RNA work is on group II introns, retroelements that are ancestrally related to both spliceosomal introns and retrotransposons. The bacterial research centers on regulation of intron mobility and the role that host and environmental factors play in retrotransposition. The lab is also engaged in structure determination of the intron ribonucleoprotein (RNP) using methods including cryo-EM, SAXS and mass spectroscopy, the latter in collaboration with Dr. D. Fabris (Chemistry, UAlbany). Yeast studies focus on the evolutionary relationship between bacterial group II introns and nuclear spliceosomal introns. Much has been written about the putative ancestral relationship between self-splicing group II introns and nuclear spliceosomal introns. Yet, there are no group II introns in nuclear genomes. A molecular rationale for this enigma is provided in a collaboration with the Curcio lab (Biomedical Sciences, UAlbany). Additionally, small RNAs and inteins in bacterial pathogens are subjects of active collaboration with the McDonough lab (Biomedical Sciences, UAlbany). The intein work forms the basis of a collaboration with the Shekhtman lab (Chemistry, UAlbany) wherein they are defining the NMR structure of an intein in complex with an intein inhibitor, a potential novel antimicrobial.