Strings, Trees, and RNA Folding

School of Mathematics Colloquium
Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 11:00
1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Skiles 269
School of Mathematics, Georgia Tech
Understanding the folding of RNA sequences into three-dimensional structures is one of the fundamental challenges in molecular biology. In this talk, we focus on understanding how an RNA viral genome can fold into the dodecahedral cage known from experimental data. Using strings and trees as a combinatorial model of RNA folding, we give mathematical results which yield insight into RNA structure formation and suggest new directions in viral capsid assembly. We also illustrate how the interaction between discrete mathematics and molecular biology motivates new combinatorial theorems as well as advancing biomedical applications.