Research in the Papavasiliou Lab

Mutations in the human genome are typically regarded as potentially disastrous events that lead to inherited abnormalities as well as carcinogenesis. There are certain processes in the body, however, which have harnessed the power of mutation for beneficial purposes. My laboratory is interested in understanding mechanistically how such processes work, and we have focused on some of the more interesting examples of beneficial genetic alteration. The processes we study center on a novel class of enzymes, the APOBEC-family of cytidine deaminases, which catalyze the conversion of a C to a U in the context of polynucleotides (DNA or RNA). Consequently, APOBEC-like deaminases can mediate both RNA editing and DNA mutation, which they do in a well-regulated manner to modulate processes ranging from immunological functions such as surface receptor diversification and host protection against viral infection to metabolic functions as basic as protein translation.