About Student Research

Laura Cassiday (1999–2002)

Structural and functional studies of RNA aptamers selected as transcription factor inhibitors

A graduate of Colorado State University, Laura Cassiday first came to Mayo as a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow, and then returned to do Ph.D. thesis research in the artificial gene control by RNA aptamers selected in vitro for their ability to bind transcription factors. Laura Cassiday advanced work initiated in the lab by Lori Lebruska. Cassiday applied the yeast three-hybrid system to characterize and improve features of a small anti-NF-kappaB RNA aptamer that binds and inhibits the p50 homodimer form of this important transcription factor in vitro. Laura's work showed that the interaction can also be engineered to occur in living yeast, and this opened up powerful new approaches to selecting and optimizing RNA aptamers for function in the nucleus using genetic selections in yeast. Laura's work also included collaborative biophysics and structural biology experiments, culminating in the high-resolution X-ray crystal structure of the anti-NF-kappaB p50 RNA aptamer in complex with its protein target.