Xiao Heng

Xiao Heng


Associate Professor

Biochemistry - School of Medicine

Research at a glance

Area(s) of Expertise

Research Summary

Our primary research focus in the laboratory revolves around comprehending the structural aspects of viral RNA and elucidating the structural foundation of virus-host interactions.

The 5′-cap of HIV-1 incompletely spliced mRNAs undergoes hypermethylation by the host trimethylguanosine synthase, resulting in the formation of a trimethylguanosine (TMG) cap. Disrupting this process markedly diminishes HIV infectivity, as the TMG-cap enables the viral RNA to access a specialized translation pathway, ensuring sustained viral protein synthesis when the host’s global translation pathway is dampened in response to the stress induced by pathogen invasion. Our lab focuses on characterizing the RNA structures and molecular interactions necessary for the cap epigenetic modification, using a variety of biophysical techniques including NMR spectroscopy, cryoEM, small angle X-ray scattering and isothermal titration calorimetry. The fundamental understanding of HIV cap epigenetic modification will advance our understanding of HIV RNA post-transcriptional regulation, and pave the way for the future development of new antiviral strategies.

Educational background

  • Ph.D. University of Maryland Baltimore County

Courses taught

  • BCH4300: Physical Biochemistry