RNA molecules fold into complex, compact shapes through complementary base pairing. Hairpin or tree-like folds emerge most often; however, occasionally the more complicated pseudoknot fold appears. Pseudoknots have amazing functionality when they do appear, catalyzing reactions as enzymes or performing other gene regulation functions.
Prof. Daniel Aalberts and his students have been improving models of pseudoknot structures and have computing how abundant pseudoknots are. The National Science Foundation awarded Aalberts a $260,819 grant to continue this research through 2010.[press release] [Aalberts’ web page]