Toor, Navtej
Structure and Function of Introns and Retroelements

Contact Information
Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Office: Urey Hall 5234
Phone: 858-534-3211
Group: View group members
2004 Ph.D., Biochemistry, University of Calgary
1996 B.Sc., Biochemistry, University of Calgary
2009 Postdoc, RNA Structural Biology, Yale University
Awards and Academic Honors
Hellman Fellowship
Research Interests
The projects in my lab focus on the structure and function of non-coding regions of prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes. Two genetic elements particularly abdundant in these organisms are introns and retroelements. For example, ~50% of the human genome consists of spliceosomal introns and non-LTR retroelements. Both of these are considered to have evolved from a class of introns which orginated in bacteria billions of years ago called the group II introns. Group II introns share many structural and/or biochemical features with spliceosomal introns and non-LTR retroelements. Previously, I worked on determining the first crystal structure of a group II intron (figure 1). This revealed the active site of this ribozyme to contain two catalytic metal ions coordinated by a conserved RNA structural motif called domain 5. Since the group II and spliceosomal introns both share this RNA structure, spliceosomal introns should also have the same active site arrangement.
Primary Research Area
Interdisciplinary interests
Macromolecular Structure

Outreach Activities
I have mentored minority graduate and undergraduate students during my graduate and postdoctoral work. I believe that it is essential to encourage underrepresented groups to participate in science. It is possible for anyone to excel at research given the appropriate environment and intellectual stimulation. As a member of the graduate admissions committee, I have promoted the recruitment of underrepresented minority candidates.

As an example of my commitment to fostering the academic development of underrepresented minorities in science, I have advised multiple minority students in my undergraduate Chem 114A course in terms of career choices and future goals.
Image Gallery

Crystal Structure of the Group II Intron with Ligated Exon Substrate

Selected Publications