This meeting is a continuation of the Zing Conferences Nucleic Acids series.
The key role of nucleic acids is to encode and process genetic information at a molecular level. DNA is the genetic library of the cell, while RNA transports, translates and controls the expression of that information. DNA must be copied with unprecedented accuracy once every cell cycle. It is under constant endogenous and environmental onslaught, and a variety of repair pathways are necessary to maintain the integrity of the genetic blueprint. DNA is the only cellular molecule for which repair occurs to a significant extent. DNA undergoes recombination, a kind of molecular cut and re-join that creates diversity to facilitate evolution, as well as providing an important repair pathway. In eukaryotes something like 2m DNA is packaged into chromosomes so that it packs into the cell nucleus with a diameter of just 6 µm, while remaining accessible to the cellular machinery that reads out its genetic information.
RNA is the dynamic worker bee of genetics to the DNA's queen, and an extremely versatile molecule. In the central dogma RNA is the messenger (mRNA) and translators (tRNA) that passes the information between the DNA genome and the protein synthesis machinery, yet it does much, much more. In translation of the genetic information it forms the architectural framework and catalytic center of the ribosome. In eukaryotic cells the pre-mRNA must be processed by the precise removal of intervening sequences (introns), carried out by a large and dynamic RNA-protein machine called the spliceosome. Increasingly we realize that RNA is also involved in critical and complex regulatory processes. RNA can act as a molecular switch responding to small molecules in order to control gene expression. Indeed while most of the genomic DNA does not encode proteins, almost all of it is transcribed into RNA. We are only just beginning the long journey of understanding what all this non-coding RNA is doing - it is very much the 'dark matter' of biology ! Lastly RNA can also accelerate chemical reactions by a million fold or more in the manner of an enzyme. This is very likely of key significance in the origin of life on the planet more than three billion years ago.
Understanding processes involving DNA and RNA at the molecular and chemical level is the central theme of this conference, with a marked structural and mechanistic perspective. The meeting will provide a platform for researchers to discover and discuss the latest advances in the field of nucleic acids, DNA and RNA, with exciting opportunities to share and receive feedback on unpublished data.
Discussion topics will include;
- DNA replication
- DNA repair
- DNA recombination
- RNA structure and function
- Translation and the ribosome
- CRISPR/Cas and genome editing
- Gene regulation and riboswitches
- RNA catalysis