Contact Information

Office: WEL: 5.256B
Phone: 512-471-4562


Office: WEL 5.248
Phone: 512-471-3973

Karen S. Browning

Associate Professor, Faculty

Research Group

Browning Research Group


PhD, University of Illinois, 1980
BS, University of Texas - Austin, 1975


Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology

Mechanism and Regulation of Eukaryotic Protein Synthesis

My research focuses on the initiation of protein synthesis in higher plants. We are seeking a molecular description of the process in which initiation factors (eIF4A, eIF4B, eIF4F, eIF3, eIF2 and PABP) select, prepare and bind messenger RNA to the 40S ribosome. Plants have a unique second form of eIF4F (eIF(iso)4F), and we are using a variety of methods (genetic knockouts, gene silencing, DNA arrays, etc.) to discover the function of this novel initiation factor. We are also interested in the features of messenger RNAs that make some messenger RNAs translate more efficiently than others and why plants need two forms of eIF4F. We are studying a plant viral RNA, satellite tobacco necrosis virus, that appears to use a region in the 3’ untranslated region (3’ UTR) to facilitate cap-independent translation by recruiting eIF4F. eIF4F is normally bound to the 5’ cap of mRNAs during initiation, so the use of the viral 3’ UTR to facilitate initiation at the 5’ end represents a novel mechanism. We are using a variety of techniques to study the interactions of initiation factors with each other and with messenger RNAs (expression of cloned factors, site-directed mutagenesis, crystallography, yeast three-hybrid system, fluorescence, etc.). From our studies we hope to gain a better understanding of the protein-protein and protein-RNA interactions that must occur for successful initiation of translation of a specific messenger RNA to occur.

Representative Publications

2010    Lellis, A.D., Allen, M. L., Aertker, A.W., Tran, J.K., Hillis, D.M., Harbin, C.R., Caldwell, C., Gallie, D.R. and Browning, K.S, Deletion of the eIFiso4G subunit of the Arabidopsis eIFiso4F translation initiation complex impairs health and viability, Plant Mol. Bio. 74:249-63.


2009    Dennis MD, Person MD, Browning KS, Phosphorylation of plant translation initiation factors by CK2 enhances the in vitro interaction of multifactor complex components, J Biol Chem. 284:20615-28.

2009    Dennis MD, Browning KS, Differential phosphorylation of plant translation initiation factors by Arabidopsis thaliana CK2 holoenzymes, J Biol Chem. 284:20602-14.

2009    Mayberry LK, Allen ML, Dennis MD, Browning KS, Evidence for variation in the optimal translation initiation complex: plant eIF4B, eIF4F, and eIF(iso)4F differentially promote translation of mRNAs, Plant Physiol. 150:1844-54.

2007    Monzingo, A.F., Dhaliwal, S., Dutt-Chaudhuri, A., Lyon, A., Sadow, J., Hoffman, D.W., Robertus, J.D., and Browning, K.S., The Structure of Translation Initiation Factor eIF4E from Wheat Reveals a Novel Disulfide Bond, Plant. Physiology 143:1504-1518.