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The Department's buildings are currently open for wet laboratory work only. We have carried out a comprehensive COVID-19 risk assessment process and have introduced a number of new measures to ensure the safety of our staff, including reduced building occupancy, strict social distancing, 'family'-based working, and increased cleaning and hygiene regimes. All staff who can work remotely will do so for the foreseeable future. Please continue to contact us by email until further notice.

Department of Biochemistry

Alex Borodavka

Molecular mechanisms underpinning RNA-controlled self-assembly of multi-segmented viral genomes.


Rotaviruses are highly contagious pathogens that mainly infect children. Most children will be infected at least once by the age of five, and that means there are a huge number of cases every year – estimated at over 114 million – with upwards of 200,000 deaths. During rotavirus replication, RNA segments are copied many times. It is not clear how rotaviruses 'count' up to 11 so that each new virus acquires a single copy of each segment. Despite the importance of understanding the molecular basis of segmented RNA genome packaging, there is very little knowledge of how eleven distinct RNAs are selected in rotaviruses. Our goal is to find out how rotaviruses select the right gene segments by exploring their individual structures and how they interact with each other. To achieve this, we use a combination of single-molecule fluorescence techniques, RNA imaging and structure probing.


Research objectives

  • Understand the roles of viral RNA chaperones in the process of RNA assembly during viral infection.

  • Identify RNA sequences that mediate RNA genome assembly.

  • Uncover the molecular architecture of viral RNA assembly sites and identify their essential components.

  • Dissect the molecular mechanisms underlying the formation of viral factories and their molecular selectivity.


Key publications

Borodavka A, Desselberger U, Patton JT (2018). Genome packaging in multi-segmented dsRNA viruses: distinct mechanisms with similar outcomes. Curr. Opin. Virol., 33(1):106-112. doi: 10.1016/j.coviro.2018.08.001

Bravo JPK, Borodavka A, Barth A, Calabrese AN, Mojzes P, Cockburn JJB, Lamb DC, Tuma R (2018). Stability of local secondary structure determines selectivity of viral RNA chaperones. Nucleic Acids Res., 46(15):7924-7937. doi: 10.1093/nar/gky394

Borodavka A, Dykeman EC, Schrimpf W, Lamb DC (2017). Protein-mediated RNA folding governs sequence-specific interactions between rotavirus genome segments. eLife, 6:e27453. doi: 10.7554/eLife.27453

Borodavka A, Singaram SW, Stockley PG, Gelbart WM, Ben-Shaul A, Tuma R (2016). Sizes of long RNA molecules are determined by the branching patterns of their secondary structures. Biophys. J., 111(10):2077-2085. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2016.10.014

Borodavka A, Ault J, Stockley PG, Tuma R (2015). Evidence that avian reovirus σNS is an RNA chaperone: implications for genome segment assortment. Nucleic Acids Res., 43(14):7044-7057. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkv639

Contact details

Research Group Leader  Alex Borodavka


Location  Hopkins Building


The Borodavka Group is accepting enquiries from prospective interns, undergraduate students, postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers.