Simbios Talk by Daniel Herschlag, Stanford University, April 1, 2009

Title: Finding and Meeting the Challenges in RNA Folding: A Progress Report

It is more and more apparent that RNA molecules play roles in biological function and regulation that go well beyond its role as a passive conveyer of information. Integral to these processes is the formation of RNA structures and complexes and the dynamic rearrangement of these species. Thus, we maintain that a deep understanding of the wide-ranging biological processes that involve RNA will require fundamental understanding of the RNA molecules themselves. RNA folding is both an integral process in the formation of functional RNAs and RNA/protein complexes and an opportunity to deeply interrogate the underlying forces that determine RNA’s behavior.

I will describe how dissection of simpler and simpler RNAs and model systems can provide rigorous tests of the properties of underlying forces. Further, these simple systems are required for rigorous comparisons of experiment and computation and, in many instances, for meaningful synergy between experiment and computation.

Simbios has stimulated substantial efforts at this interface, although this work represents an initiation rather than a completion of a deep investigation of the physics underlying RNA molecular behavior.