Overview of the Tolbert Group
Research in the Tolbert Group endeavors to understand the molecular mechanisms RNA viruses use to express their genomes. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and other solution biophysical methods are used to determine 3D structures and physiochemical properties of viral RNA regulatory elements both free and bound to their cognate host proteins. The research in the group is highly interdisciplinary where trainees have the opportunity to gain experience in biophysical chemistry, molecular biology, computational biology, and virology. Our primary focus is to better understand how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the etiological agent of AIDS, regulates RNA processing events. Towards that end, we determined the first high-resolution structure of a key HIV regulatory RNA, the Exon Splicing Silencer 3 (ESS3), and elucidated its thermodynamic binding profile to the human protein hnRNP A1. Other projects include determining the molecular mechanisms of transcriptional control of HIV latency and translational control of Enterovirus 71 (EV71), the etiological agent of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.