FSU scientist's biomolecular research published in Science, Nature

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For a scientist, having one's research published in a peer-reviewed journal signifies a high level of professional expertise and accomplishment. If that journal happens to be Science or Nature -- two of the world's top scientific publications -- so much the better.

One Florida State University researcher has achieved a unique level of distinction: co-authoring papers for both journals -- and within a week of each other.

Hong Li, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry in FSU's Institute of Molecular Biophysics, co-authored a paper with FSU postdoctoral researcher Song Xue and molecular biophysics graduate student Kate Calvin that appeared in Science on May 12. Titled "RNA Recognition and Cleavage by a Splicing Endonuclease," the paper offers new insights into the structures of "biomolecules," organic molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids that exist in living organisms.

"My group applies a physical technique called X-ray crystallography to view biomolecules in three dimensions at atomic scales," Li said. "Knowing the shape and associated chemical properties of biomolecules provides the foundation for understanding how they work to sustain the life of cells. This is analogous, although at quite different scales, to dissecting the human heart in order to understand how it works and its role in blood circulation. It is still quite challenging to obtain structures of novel biomolecules, and it is even more challenging to capture the structure of "molecules in action."

The second paper, "Cleavage of Pre-tRNAs by the Splicing Endonuclease Requires a Composite Active Site," was published in the May 18 issue of Nature. Li co- authored that paper with scientists from PTC Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company based in South Plainfield, N.J. Like the Science article, it discusses findings involving biomolecular structures known as "introns," which are intervening sequences found in human genes that s

Contact: Hong Li
Florida State University

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