Our highly interdisciplinary group studies the folding of catalytic non-coding RNAs (ribozymes) with fluorescence techniques of sensitivities up to the single-molecule level. We are fascinated by how RNA is able to catalyze and facilitate complex chemical reactions, dismantling the dogma that protein enzymes are the sole biological carriers of catalytic activity. Ribozyme structures are extremely dynamic over time scales of microseconds to hours. The major goal of our group is to understand these dynamics by the combined use of state-of-the-art biophysical and biochemical approaches, spanning both experiment and theory (advanced molecular dynamics simulations). We aim to identify and optimize ribozymes for gene therapy applications within cells and explore their use as single-molecule biosensors.
The systems we study range from pathogenic RNAs, such as that of the human hepatitis delta virus, to large cellular machines that process genetic information, such as the ribosome and the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC). Steady-state and time-resolved fluorescence measurements as well as molecular dynamics (MD) simulations allow us to ask questions such as: How does an RNA fold into a functional structure? Are there conformationally distinct RNA molecules present? Do multiple folding pathways exist that lead to identical catalytic structures? What influence do cofactors and sequence modifications have? Particularly our single-molecule fluorescence microscopy enables us to solve these exciting problems by directly monitoring individual RNA molecules as they fold and unfold.
For more information, please see our group webpage.
** When searching Pubmed use "Walter NG" or "Walter Nils G"
- Alumnus of the Year Award, Sherbrooke RiboClub 2006
- JILA Distinguished Visitor Fellowship (David Nesbitt group) 2006
- Visiting Scholar, Harvard University (Sunney Xie group) 2006
- Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award 2004
- Dow Corning Assistant Professorship - University of Michigan 2002
- Otto-Hahn Award for Outstanding Researchers of the Max-Planck Society 1995
- Anton Keller Prize for best Chemistry Diploma of the Year at the Technical University of Darmstadt
- Feodor-Lynen Postdoctoral Research Fellowship -Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
- Kekule Ph.D. Scholarship from the Stiftung Stipendienfonds des Verbandes der Chemischen Industrie
- Study Scholarship from the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes