Astrobiology: Life in the Universe
Georgia Tech Center for Ribosomal Evolution and Adaptation
NASA Astrobiology Institute
2009 Life on the Edge Workshop

Loren Williams, Director and Principal Investigator: Expert on the chemistry, assembly and electrostatic interactions of nucleic acids; data mining techniques for determination of fundamental principles of RNA assembly.
email: web
phone: (404) 894-9752
Christine Dunham: Expert on ribosome function, structure and crystallization; mechanism of viral mRNA frameshifts; structure and function of RNA-binding proteins involved in mRNA processing and transport.
email: web
phone: (404) 712-1756
Eric Gaucher: Expert on evolutionary synthetic biology, molecular biology, comparative genomics, computational biology, bioinformatics, molecular evolution and origins of life.
email: web
phone: (404) 385-3265
Rachel Green: Expert on ribosome enzymology and the effects of site-specific nucleotide changes on ribosomal function.
email: web
phone: (410) 614-4922
Steven Harvey: Expert on structure-function relationships in the ribosome, who constructs detailed models with the aim of understanding ribosomal assembly and evolution, along with the structural, thermodynamic, and kinetic basis of translation.
email: web
phone: (404) 385-4498
Nick Hud: Expert on the physical properties of nucleic acids and on how these properties played a role in the early stages of life on earth.
email: web
phone: (404) 693-5371
Yomi Oyelere: Expert on molecular recognition of small molecules with ribosomal components.
email: web
phone: (404) 894-4047
William Scott: Expert on ribozymes, on how proteins and drugs interact with RNA, and chemical processes in the origins of life.
email: web
phone: (831) 459-5367
Terry Snell: Expert on invertebrate culture techniques, evolutionary ecology, and gene expression in response to environmental stress.
email: web
phone: (404) 894-8906
Marion Usselman: Expert on increasing opportunities for students in science, who works with a large collaboration of industry, education, and political leaders to open access to technological fields.
phone: (404) 894-9673
Roger Wartell: Expert on RNA-protein interactions, thermodynamics of RNA structural motifs and factors governing RNA structural transitions and function; ice-driven RNA assembly.
email: web
phone: (404) 894-8421

Mission Statement
Ribosomes in extant organism are the most direct biochemical link to the deep evolutionary past and are the most ancient of life's molecular machines. As stated by Carl Woese, "Translation is not just another molecular structure to be solved. It represents, it is, the evolutionary transition from some kind of nucleic acid-based world to the protein-based world of modern cells."

In a multi-pronged approach we will resurrect and reconstruct ancestral ribosomes and the aboriginal sub-structures that composed them. In a bottom-up approach the team will design and assemble RNA motifs specific to ribosomes. In a top-down approach the team will use phylogeny and molecular clipping to determine minimal and ancestral folding and functional units. Resurrecting structures and evaluating their assembly, functions and properties will be aided by development of new methods of structure analysis and by determination of new structures. A primary focus of the Georgia Tech Center is the Large Subunit (LSU) of the ribosome, which contains the Peptidyl Transfer Center. We will determine LSU structures from diverse regions of the tree of life, especially those from extreme environments, which provide the most useful and significant guide posts in the resurrection process.