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Raven H Huang

Raven H Huang

411 Roger Adams Laboratory
Office: (217) 333-3967
Lab: (217) 244-4280
Fax: (217) 244-5858

Mail to: Department of Biochemistry
419 Roger Adams Lab B-4
University of Illinois, U-C
600 S Mathews Ave
Urbana, IL 61801

Professor of Biochemistry
Professor of Biophysics and Quantitative Biology
Affiliate, Department of Chemistry

Research Topics

Drug Discovery, Enzymology, Host-Pathogen Interactions, Protein Synthesis, Protein-Nucleic Acid Interactions, RNA Biology, Toxins


B.S. and M.S. 1986 Nankai University
Ph.D. 1995 University of Washington
Postdoc. 1996-99 Harvard University

Enzymatic regulation of protein synthesis; Development of small-molecule inhibitors against pathogenic bacteria

Due to its essential role in all living organisms, protein synthesis is a main target of regulation that sometimes determines the fate of organisms. Research in Huang laboratory focuses on studies of protein enzymes that act on essential RNAs involved in protein translation. Based on the effect of these enzymes, the research can be divided into three specific areas.

RNA Damage. A variety of toxins target protein translation apparatus for cell killing. The biggest group among them is perhaps ribotoxins, which cleave essential RNAs (rRNAs, tRNAs, and mRNAs) to inhibit protein translation. It is estimated that tens of thousands of ribotoxins are produced by organisms from all three domains, but only a small fraction of them has been characterized. Our research in this area focuses on discovery, biochemical and structural characterization of novel ribotoxins that inhibit protein translation.

RNA Repair. To counter RNA damage inflicted by ribotoxins, some organisms employ protein enzymes to repair the damaged RNAs for self-defense. Several years ago, our laboratory discovered the first bacterial RNA repair system. The system, which is composed of two proteins named Pnkp and Hen1, not only repairs the damaged RNAs, but also immunizes the repaired RNAs to prevent them from future damage. Through bioinformatics, we have recently found additional new RNA repair systems, and their functional characterization is currently underway.

RNA Modification. Various RNAs, tRNA in particular, are subject to extensive post-transcriptional modifications. To date, more than 100 modified nucleosides have been found in RNA. It is well documented that modifications in tRNAs, especially those near the anticodon, affect efficiency and accuracy of protein translation. We are interested in mechanistic and structural studies of RNA-modifying enzymes, particularly those involved in hypermodifications near the anticodon of tRNA.

Representative Publications

Wang, P., Selvadurai, K., Huang, R.H. (2015) Reconstitution and structure of a bacterial Pnkp1–Rnl–Hen1 RNA repair complex. Nat. Commun. 6:6876.

Selvadurai, K., Wang, P., Seimetz, J., Huang, R.H. (2014) Archaeal Elp3 catalyzes tRNA wobble uridine modification at C5 via a radical mechanism. Nat. Chem. Biol. 10: 810-812

Wang, P., Chan, C.M., Christensen, D., Zhang, C., Selvadurai, K., Huang, R.H. (2012) Molecular basis of bacterial Hen1 activating the ligase activity of bacterial Pnkp for RNA repair. PNAS 109:13248-13253.

Chan, C.M., Zhou, C., Huang, R.H. (2009) Reconstituting bacterial RNA repair and modification in vitro. Science 326:247.

Chan, C.M., Zhou, C., Brunzelle, J.S., Huang, R.H. (2009) Structural and biochemical insights into 2’-O-methylation at the 3’-terminal nucleotide of RNA by Hen1. PNAS 106:17699-17704.

Zhou, C., Huang, R.H. (2008) Crystallographic snapshots of eukaryotic dimethylallyltransferase acting on tRNA: insight into tRNA recognition and reaction mechanism. PNAS 105:16142-16147.

Complete Publications List