Contact Information

Office: MBB: 1.220
Phone: 512-232-3418


Office: MBB 2.210
Phone: 512-232-3418

Alan M. Lambowitz

Director, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology
Mr. and Mrs. A. Frank Smith, Jr. and Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Regents Chairs in Molecular Biology

Research Group

Lambowitz Lab


BS, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, 1968
PhD, Yale University, 1972

Postdoctorate, University of Pennsylvania, Rockefeller University, National Institutes of Health (1973-76)


Member, National Academy of Sciences, 2004
Texas Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Scienc, 2004
Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology, 2002
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2001
UT Cooperative Society Award for Best Research Paper, 2000
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1995
NIH Merit Award, 1993


Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology

Mobile Introns, Reverse Transcriptases, RNA Catalysis, Splicing, and Helicases, and Their Applications

Structure, Function, Evolution, Systems Biology, and Biotechnology

Our laboratory studies gene expression, RNA splicing, mobile self-splicing introns, and retroviral-like genetic elements in eukaryotes and prokaryotes. We are interested in mechanisms by which mobile introns proliferate within genomes by inserting into new DNA sites, how proteins promote RNA folding and RNA catalysis, the mechanism and function of RNA helicases and their relationship to cancer, the evolution of introns and splicing mechanisms, and the evolution and origin of retroviruses and reverse transcription. Our research employs a combination of genetic, biochemical, and structural approaches. In practical applications of our work, we have used mobile group II introns to develop a new type of gene targeting vector, dubbed "targetron", which can be programmed to insert efficiently into desired DNA sites. Targetrons are now sold commercially and are widely used for the genetic engineering and systems biology of diverse bacteria. Recently, we developed a thermotargetron that enables facile gene targeting in bacterial thermophiles with the aim of enhancing production of chemicals and biofuels in industrially important processes. We are also developing methods for using targetrons in higher organisms, with potential applications in gene therapy. Our work on mobile group II introns led to the discovery of a new family of intron-encoded reverse transcriptase. We are studying these enzymes biochemically and structurally and have developed them as tools for applications in next-generation RNA sequencing, transcriptome profiling, analysis of RNA structure and RNA-protein interactions, and diagnostics. We are using the novel properties and activities of thermostable group II intron reverse transcriptases for the discovery and profiling of miRNAs and other non-coding RNAs involved in important biological processes and human diseases.

Representative Publications

Mohr, S., Ghanem, E., Smith, W., Sheeter, D., Qin, Y., King, O., Polioudakis, D., Iyer, V.R., Hunicke-Smith, S. Swamy, S., Kuersten, S., and Lambowitz, A.M. Thermostable group II intron reverse transcriptase fusion proteins and their use in cDNA synthesis and next-generation sequencing. RNA 19, 958-970, 2013.

Mohr, G., Hong, W., Zhang, J., Cui, G-z., Yang, Y., Qiu, C., Liu, Y-j., Lambowitz, A.M. A targetron system for gene targeting in thermophiles and its application in Clostridium thermocellum. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69032, 2013.

Mallam A.L., Del Campo M., Gilman B., Sidote D.J., and Lambowitz A.M. (2012) Structural basis for RNA-duplex recognition and unwinding by the DEAD-box helicase Mss116p. Nature 490, 121-125, 2012.

Lambowitz, A.M. and Zimmerly, S. Group II introns: mobile ribozymes that invade DNA. In: The RNA Worlds, 4th Edition (R.V. Gesteland, T.R. Cech, and J.F. Atkins, Editors), Cold Spring Harbor Press Perspect. Biol. 3(8), a003616, 2011.

Mohr, G., Ghanem, E., Lambowitz, A.M. Mechanisms used for genomic proliferation by thermophilic group II introns. PLoS Biology 8, e1000391, 2010.