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Kath-Schorr lab - Institute for Organic Chemistry

The Role of Z-RNA in Relocalization of Zα Doman-Containing Proteins in Cells

Certain regions in double stranded (ds) RNA are able to form left-handed duplex structures. This left-handed RNA conformation, termed Z-RNA due to its zig-zag backbone structure, is highly unstable and forms in vitro only at high salt conditions or using stabilizing nucleotide modifications. Due to its unstable character and related challenges in studying Z-RNA formation, only in recent years evidence has emerged that Z-RNA duplexes are transiently formed in cells and have important biological functions, in particular may play a major role in the innate immune response. 

Z-DNA/Z-RNA is bound by the Zα domain protein family that includes in mammals only two proteins, adenosine deaminase acting on RNA 1 (ADAR1) and Z-DNA-binding protein 1 (ZBP1). During cellular stresses such as heat, arsenite and interferon-induced stress, both ADAR1 and ZBP1 relocalize from bulk cytosol to cytosolic stress granules based on the presence of Zα domains. There is strong evidence that this event is associated with Z-RNA formation as mutations in Zα domains preventing dsRNA binding abolish protein relocalization. We aim to investigate the transient formation of Z-RNA and its impact on relocalization of Zα domain proteins upon cellular stress.


Finn Dicke

PhD Students since July 2023

EMail: fdicke[at]smail.uni-koeln.de

"I obtained my Bachelor's and Master's degree in chemistry in Cologne before joining the Kath-Schorr lab for my doctoral studies. Here, I work on chemically modified nucleobases which stabilise Z-RNA and Z-DNA, a usually unstable left-handed double helix structure of nucleic acids."



Julian Strippel

PhD Students since September 2023

EMail: jstrippe[at]smail.uni-koeln.de

"After finishing my Master thesis in Organic Chemistry in 2023, I decided to stay in Cologne to join the Kath-Schorr lab for my doctoral studies. In my project I aim to develop and synthesize small-molecules that can stimulate the innate immune response in plants by facilitating signalling protein/protein interactions."