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Nucleic acids are fundamentally informational macromolecules; their sequence is the cell's genetic operating system and software. The repository of this information lies in DNA that must be copied with unprecedented accuracy precisely once every cell cycle. DNA is repeatedly read out (transcribed) before sending its information out to where it becomes used to program the synthesis of proteins. The integrity of the genetic blueprint is vital to the cell, and yet the structure of DNA is under constant onslaught. Thus precise mechanisms exist to repair damage in DNA; it is the only cellular molecule for which this occurs to a significant extent. DNA undergoes recombination, a kind of molecular cut and join that creates diversity to facilitate evolution, yet also provides an important method of repair. In eukaryotic cells DNA is packaged into chromosomes in a way that allows something like 2 m of nucleic acid to be packed into the cell nucleus, yet remain accessible to the cellular machinery that reads out its genetic information.
By contrast RNA is highly dynamic. It is the worker bee of genetics to the DNA's queen, and an extremely versatile molecule. In the central dogma it is the messenger (mRNA) that passes the information between the DNA library and the protein synthesis factory, yet it does much, much more. In translation of the genetic information it is the key component of the ribosome, as well as the tRNA species that activate and deliver the amino acids and decode the message. 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. Failure to do this correctly can lead to disease, and it is now becoming possible to create therapies that correct this. 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 information in DNA is not protein coding, 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. Every two years we have a hot topic theme and have previously covered ribosome, spliceosome, exosome, ncRNA regulation, DNA replication initiation, DNA topology and repair at past meetings. In 2022, our hot topic will likely be RNA viruses.
Confirmed Plenary Speakers
William Greenleaf (Stanford University)
Karl-Peter Hopfner (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
Anastasia Khvorova (UMass Medical School)
Adrian Krainer (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)
Joan Steitz (Yale School of Medicine)
Gigi Storz (NIH)
Carl Wu (Johns Hopkins University)
What makes this meeting unique? David Lilley says "I really think it’s in part the unique mechanistic and structural focus (reflecting Wei and my way of thinking). And because we have this unique point of view people get a different perspective, and so the discussion is always very stimulating. That has been the case since the very first meeting in Mexico, where I think we made a real step forward in understanding the mechanism of peptidyl transferase in the ribosome. Another feature of our meetings is the large number of talks we get from participants, that are frequently of a very high standard. This builds on the broadness of our topics and draws everyone into the discussion leaving participants stimulated with an abundance of new ideas."
See what our past participants have said about the Nucleic Acids series:
"Thanks so much for placing me on the meeting agenda, and I really had a most great time at this meeting. It was a perfect size - I made new friends, some were brand new, and some existed and were made stronger. So the meeting was much more bountiful to me than the ability to present my work, by a long shot. I totally loved thinking of chemical mechanisms, as it reminded me of my grad work, and it is so very lovely to be back in that chemical mind frame. I miss it."
"Outstanding organisation, lovely location, excellent science."
"Thank you for an amazing conference!"
"I had a great time. Loved the meeting, beach and sun."
Take advantage of this fantastic opportunity for students! Fully paying academics can bring a student for only $890. Unfortunately, Postdocs are not eligible. Both registration packages include; accommodation for the 20, 21, 22 Feb 2022 (on a shared basis for students) and a food and beverage package for the conference period. Once registered, please contact Chloe Trundle to obtain a special registration link for your student.