Larijani Lab.@SFU

5-dimensional research into genome-mutating processes: mechanisms, structures, evolution, immunity and cancer

We study processes that mutate and alter the genetic codes of DNA/RNA. DNA/RNA-mutating processes have diverse biological functions ranging from modulating innate and adaptive immune responses, the evolution of host and viral genomes, and epigenetic changes underlying developmental reprogramming and tissue differentiation. On the other hand, these same beneficial DNA/RNA-altering processes can cause mutations and/or chromosomal breaks leading to the transformation of healthy cells into cancer. Furthe rmore, these processes can be erroneously activated in cells of non-immune tissues. Mutational processes often continue operating in tumors resulting in increased aggressiveness, escape from recognition by the immune system as well as resistance to treatment.
The overarching theme of our research is to understand the molecular/cellular mechanisms and biological impacts of DNA/RNA-mutating processes in health and disease.
We are interested in every dimension of DNA/RNA-mutating processes, including their molecular structures, biochemical mechanisms, cellular regulation, impact on health and disease, and also theirevolution and divergent functions throughout speciation.
Our methodologies are interdisciplinary and integrate biochemistry, structural biology, molecular & cellular biology, evolutionary biology, whole organism approaches, and computational biology.
Thematically, we work on two broad fronts: first, understanding how DNA/RNA-mutating processes impact human health and diseases and mapping out their therapeutic potential in diseases like cancer; second, discovering how they evolved, presently function, or used to function throughout speciation as well as discovering novel DNA/RNA-editing enzymes. Our broad areas of research include:
1) Elucidating the dynamic structures of genome mutating enzymes
2) Understanding the biochemical mechanisms and structure: function relationships of DNA/RNA-mutating enzymes
2) Mapping the regulation of the activity of DNA/RNA-mutating enzymes in healthy cells
3) Discovering how DNA/RNA-mutating enzymes function in the genesis and progression of cancer
4) Investigating the ways DNA/RNA-editing enzymes influence the immune response to cancer and to viruses
5) Discovery of ancient DNA/RNA-mutating enzymes and mapping the evolution and co-evolutionaryscenarios involving DNA/RNA mutating processes throughout life on earth