Khorana Prize 2016 Winner

Professor David Lilley
Professor David Lilley
University of Dundee


Awarded for pioneering research on branched nucleic acids, including the elucidation of the structure and mechanism of DNA junction-resolving enzymes and catalytic RNA molecules.

About the Winner

Professor Lilley has worked on the structure and dynamics of branchpoints in nucleic acids for 30 years. This began when he solved the structure of the four-way junction (the Holliday junction of genetic recombination) in solution. In the course of these studies Lilley developed biophysical methods, especially fluorescence resonance energy transfer. His FRET study of the four-way DNA junction was really the first in the modern era of such studies. This naturally led to single-molecule studies where he has been very active.

Lilley has made many studies of the interactions between DNA junctions and proteins, especially the junction-resolving enzymes.  This most recently led to the solution of the structure of the eukaryotic resolving enzyme GEN1 bound to a four-way DNA junction.

Helical junctions are also very common in RNA, where they are important architectural elements in the folding of these molecules. In the last 15 years, Lilley has made many studies of RNA junctions, and a widespread structural motif, the kink turn. He has also provided considerable insight into the chemical mechanisms of the nucleolytic ribozymes, including the hammerhead, hairpin and VS ribozymes. He has shown that the nucleolytic ribozymes all operate primarily by nucleobase-mediated general acid-base catalysis. Most recently he has solved the structure of the new twister ribozyme by X-ray crystallography.

In addition to his research, David Lilley is very active in promotion of links with Chinese science. He is a visiting professor at Xiamen University, a consultant for AB Life in Wuhan and has collaborative links with Shanghai Fudan University. 

Related Links

Link icon Professor Lilley's Webpage
University of Dundee

External links will open in a new browser window