Hong Jin has broad training in biochemistry, biophysics, and structural biology, including macromolecule X-ray crystallography, solution NMR spectroscopy, and electron cryo-microscopy. Her lab’s goal is to understand the mechanisms of essential RNA-protein complexes in gene expression. They use structural biology tools in addition to biophysical, biochemical, genetic, and genomic methods to gain insight into translation and regulation. Regulatory dysfunction in translation influences important cellular processes and can lead to diseases and cancer.
As a Ph.D. student at Yale University, Jin initiated a biochemical investigation of eukaryotic small nucleolar RNA (snoRNA) and ribosomal RNA (rRNA) interactions and solved the first structure of a snoRNA-rRNA complex by solution NMR spectroscopy. Her work revealed a new RNA-RNA interaction motif, which provided mechanistic insights into how a specific nucleotide in the rRNA is selected for modifications that are essential for cellular functions. As a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Postdoctoral Fellow, Jin had carried out extensive biochemical investigations in translation and solved several high-resolution crystal structures of ribosomal complexes with protein release factors bound along the translational termination pathway by X-ray crystallography. These structures have addressed fundamental questions in molecular biology that have persisted since the genetic code was discovered. She also characterized the molecular features of the ratcheting ribosome and demonstrated how a GTPase induces and stabilizes the ribosome in the hybrid state. These features are fundamental to the ribosome function in each of its essential stages of translation including initiation, elongation, termination, and recycling.
Jin earned her Bachelor’s at Central China Normal University and her PhD from Yale University. She also serves as Professor of Biophysics and Quantitative Biology at the University of Illinois.