Chemical biology of DNA and RNA. The Kool lab uses the tools of chemistry to study the structures, interactions and biological activities of nucleic acids and the enzymes that process them. Molecular design and synthesis play a major role in this work, followed by analysis of structure and function, both in test tubes and in living systems. Our studies are aimed at gaining a better basic understanding of biology, and applying this knowledge to practical applications in biomedicine.

As part of this study, members of our group synthesize designer nucleobases and nucleotides, with unusual properties such as fluorescence, enzyme reactivity, or altered shape and H-bonding ability. We use these as tools to study DNA polymerase enzymes, DNA repair pathways, and RNA modifying enzymes. This work is leading to new probes for diagnosis of cancer, useful fluorescent tags for biology, and fluorescent sensors of many species such as cancer metabolites and toxic metals.