The research in Professor Turner's group focuses on the forces directing nucleic acid chemistry, with particular emphasis on RNA folding. This chemistry is important for life and for design of therapeutics. Nevertheless, much of it is not well understood. Studies of the properties of short oligonucleotides and related computational studies provide insight into the interactions determining the sequence dependence of the structures, energetics, and dynamics of nucleic acids.
Insight into the structures of large RNAs are provided by experiments that provide: (1) NMR spectra and (2) chemical reactivity of individual nucleotides. This information is incorporated into computer programs to predict the secondary and three-dimensional structure of an RNA. The results from these studies are providing the foundation for a bioinformatics approach to develop deeper interpretations of the many nucleic acid sequences determined by the Human Genome Project and other sequencing efforts. Binding of RNA to oligonucleotides in a microarray is providing information to facilitate design of therapeutics to target RNA.
The solutions to these challenging problems require many different clues. The group therefore applies the methods of UV and NMR spectroscopies, thermodynamics, computational chemistry, oligonucleotide synthesis, chemical and microarray mapping of RNA structure, and rapid reaction kinetics. By combining the results obtained from these various techniques, it is often possible to deduce unifying concepts for the nucleic acid chemistry.