We the RNAciers, the driving force who constantly look for unprecedented tRNA modifications focusing on the early infection stages in the host-pathogen interactions.

The RNAcious Laboratory

Molecular and Integrative Biology Research Programme                                                                      
Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Biocenter 1 (Viikinkaari 9 B) , Room 6232
00014 University of Helsinki

Peter Sarin
PhD, Principal Investigator, Academy of Finland Research Fellow

Email: peter.sarin(at)
Phone: +358-2941-59533

I started my scientific career in 2003 as a research assistant at the Animal Virus Laboratory of Dr. Tero Ahola (University of Helsinki), studying the differences in viral RNA synthesis in temperature-sensitive mutants of Semliki Forest Virus. Being infected with a passion for viruses, I carried out my MSc studies in 2005 on the biochemical characterisation of the SARS coronavirus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase at the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence for Structural Virology 2000-2005 (University of Helsinki) under the supervision of Prof. Dennis Bamford. For my PhD studies I continued at the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence for Virus Research 2006-2011 (University of Helsinki). With the inspiring mentorship of Dr. Minna Poranen and Prof. Dennis Bamford, I explored the molecular mechanism of bacteriophage phi6 RNA polymerase and its utilization in biotechnological applications, obtaining my PhD degree in January 2011.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Helsinki, I expanded my biochemical research into other viral polymerases, studied the membrane assembly phase of bacteriophage phi6, and developed RNA production and purification methods. Upon receiving the Sigrid Jusélius Fellowship (2012-2014), I entered the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine (Münster, Germany) to study the evolutionary role of tRNA modifications in response to cellular stress factors. Under the expert mentoring of Dr. Sebastian Leidel (Max Planck Research Group for RNA Biology), I co-developed a nano-LC mass spectrometry technique that is suitable for ribonucleoside analysis and allows accurate determination of changes in tRNA modification levels. Using this approach I revealed a temperature-dependent thiolation deficit in yeast. This unexpected result has generated attention at international conferences and was featured on the cover of the journal RNA (February 2015). I have also studied several closely related yeast strains following temperature stress and observed a marked difference in their tRNA modification levels (unpublished work), which suggests that environmental adaptation strongly influences stress responses.

In May 2016 I obtained Academy of Finland Research Fellow funding for the period 01.09.2016-31.08.2021, enabling me to establish myself as a principal investigator. I am currently instigating my research group at the Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki.

As a recognition of my teaching skills, I was appointed Docent in Molecular Biology by the University of Helsinki in 2014.

03.04.2018 -

Ulrike Abendroth
PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher (Part time)

Email:  ulrike.abendroth(at)

Ulrike focuses on tRNA modifications and their effect(s) manifested during early viral infection cycles using plant-pathogen model.

01.01.2017 -

Cha San Koh
PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher

Phone:   +358 2941 59567
Email:    chasan.koh(at)

Cha San focuses on tRNA modifications and their effect(s) manifested during early viral infection cycles using various host-pathogen models.

With degrees in Biochemistry, Chemistry, and Molecular Physico-Chemistry (BSc., MSc., and PhD.), and postdoctoral experience in RNA biology (with emphasis on structural studies of ribosome complexes) in Uppsala (Sweden) and Massachusetts (United States), Cha San is passionate about the regulation of the translational machinery in cells. She is particularly interested in tRNA and rRNA modifications involved in the dynamics of the ribosomes for performing protein synthesis. To this end, she has utilized various structural, biochemical, and computational approaches to understand how the tRNA-mRNA like elements of viral internal ribosomal entry site (IRES) RNAs are precisely positioned and translocate through the host ribosomes for decoding.


01.08.2017 -

Pavlina Gregorova
MSc, PhD candidate

Phone:  +358 408385634
Email:    pavlina.gregorova(at)

Pavlina is involved in the project focusing on tRNA modifications and their effect(s) manifested during early stage of disease using cancer cell lines model.

Pavlina finished her both degrees (BSc., MSc.) in the field of Biochemistry at Masaryk University (Czech Republic).

In free time, she likes to do sports (jogging or cycling), plays clarinet, just wandering around city and exploring new places. :)



01.11.2016 - 31.01.2017

Hannu Hotti
PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher

Phone:   +358 4056 13495
Email:     hannu.hotti(at)

Hannu focuses on tRNA modifications and their effect(s) manifested during early bacterial infection cycles using plant-bacteria model.

15.05.2016 - 15.08.2017
Rajita Rayamajhi Thapa
MSc, Summer internship student

01.11.2016 - 30.03.2017
Duolong Zhu
PhD Candidate, Visiting Scientist





We’re continuously looking for motivated Master and PhD students as well as externally funded postdoctoral fellows to join our team and work on groundbreaking research projects in an inspiring environment. If you’re interested, please send an email to Peter Sarin together with a full CV and contact details of two references.