RNA is an ancient and universal biopolymer that is involved in nearly every aspect of biology. Next to nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids, glycans are the fourth fundamental biopolymer. Glycans perform a myriad of essential functions, especially in the context of cell surface events, where complex glycans facilitate the folding and purposeful trafficking of proteins and lipids for secretion or membrane presentation. Processes such as embryogenesis, host-pathogen recognition, and tumor-immune interactions rely on proper glycosylation. Interestingly while glycans, lipids, and proteins all work together in these highly conserved processes, nucleic acids have been traditionally excluded. However, our most recent work has led to the discovery that some RNAs are glycosylated with complex N-glycans. This new class of biomolecule, glycoRNA, represents a physical link between the world of RNA and that of glycosylation.
The Flynn Lab is focused on exploring the interface of two key biomolecules, RNA and glycans, by developing and implementing chemical, biochemical, and genetic tools. Understanding the regulatory mechanisms underlying glycoRNA and the interface of the secretory pathway and nucleic acids will have implications for the basic biology of processes such as stem cells, cancer, and regeneration.
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