Sen Lab

My laboratory carries out research to discover new “fundamental” properties of DNA and RNA.  The catalytic properties of these nucleic acids, and the role of unusual RNA and DNA structures in diseases as well as is normal cellular processes are of special interest.

A major and long-term interest of my research program is to gain a deep understanding of the catalytic possibilities of DNA and RNA. Astonishing recent discoveries in the biology of RNA (such as riboswitches and miRNA) have shown it to be anything but a passive carrier of genetic information. Indeed, the existence of ribozymes (catalytic RNAs) has long bolstered the notion of an “RNA World”, an early stage in evolution in which RNA was responsible for both informational and catalytic functions within organisms.  A focus of my lab is to search for new and often unexpected catalytic properties of RNA (and of its surrogate, DNA).  We are one of only a few labs in the world that specialize in this area; however, our key papers have contributed to new thinking about primordial biochemistry, the de novo design of biocatalysts, and generated often unexpected practical applications, particularly in the field of biosensing.

For more details, visit our research lab website.



Lab Room:

SSB 7148

Lab Phone: 

(778) 782-5655



Selected Publications

  •  A. Barlev, D. Sen  (2018). DNA's Encounter with Ultraviolet Light: An Instinct for Self-Preservation? Acc.Chem. Res. 51, 526-533.
  • O.J. Einarson,  D. Sen (2017). Self-biotinylation of DNA G-quadruplexes via intrinsic peroxidase activity.  Nucleic Acids Res. 45, 9813-9822. 
  • A. Barlev, G. S. Sekhon, A. J. Bennet, and D. Sen* (2016). DNA Repair by DNA: The UV1C DNAzyme Catalyzes Photoreactivation of Cyclobutane Thymine Dimers in DNA More Effectively than Their de Novo Formation. Biochemistry 55, 6010-6018.
  • P. Cernak and D. Sen* (2013). A thiamin-utilizing ribozyme decarboxylates a pyruvate-like substrate. Nature Chemistry 5, 971-977.

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