My research focuses on the process of tRNA modification, where individual tRNA molecules are decorated with a host of chemical modifications in order to fulfill their critical role in cellular translation.
Recent work has highlighted these tRNA modifications as important to the health of the cell, and therefore to human health and disease. Despite this importance, there are large gaps in our understanding of how, where, and why tRNA modifications occur. My lab uses classical biochemical assays and yeast genetics to investigate these questions, and is particularly interested in determining how modification enzymes select correct targets out of a pool of similarly-structured tRNA molecules.
Additional work in the lab seeks to expand into a new, unicellular model organism, since we lack much knowledge of tRNA modifications outside a core few model organisms (e.g. E. coli, humans, S. cerevisiae), which makes it difficult to contextualize and fully understand current findings.
- Howell, N.W., Jora, M., Jepson, B.F., Limbach, P.A., Jackman, J.E. (2019) Distinct substrate specificities of the human tRNA methyltransferases TRMT10A and TRMT10B. RNA, October 2019 25: 1366-1376
- Howell, N.W., Jackman, J.E. (2019) Impact of chemical modification on tRNA function. eLS, 10.1002/9780470015902.a0028527