Discovery of RNA cap explains important step in protein production.

Professor Jerry Adams and Professor Suzanne Cory have left behind careers with the world’s molecular biology leaders, to establish their own research program at the institute. They are among the first molecular biologists in Australia. Their early research is a continuation of their European studies of messenger RNA, molecules that carry the instructions from DNA for protein production.

Messenger RNA wears a cap

“We were able to identify what are now called the cap structures on messenger RNA,” says Adams.1 The cap is a chemical modification at the beginning of these RNA molecules that protects them from degradation and allows them to participate in protein production.

“This was a major achievement because it revealed a fundamental aspect about the structure of messenger RNA. The discovery was also a great personal satisfaction, because we finally had shown that we could actually deliver the goods and achieve something important here in Melbourne.”

Primed with this success, Adams and Cory are able to attack the research question that had brought them to Melbourne – studying DNA and RNA to understand how immune cells produce antibodies.

1 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Digital Archives: Oral History Collection, <http://library.cshl.edu/oralhistory/interview/scientific-experience/advice-young-scientists/adams-sequencing-immunoglobin-rna/ > recorded 2003.