James F. Curran

James Curran in Laboratory

James Curran, Professor of Biology at Wake Forest University (photo credit: Ken Bennett)

B.A., University of Delaware
M.A., Ph.D., Rice University
Postdoctoral Research, University of Colorado at Boulder

108 Winston Hall
(336) 758-5956
FAX: (336) 758-6008

Areas of Interest

Molecular Mechanisms of Protein Synthesis, Gene Regulation, Nucleic Acid Chemistry, Microbial Evolutionary Mechanisms


The ribosomal translation of the genetic code is a fundamental biological process. Cells are composed mostly of protein, and cellular well-being depends on the accurate and efficient production of that biomass. We have ongoing projects that explore the molecular mechanisms of programmed frameshifting, the function of the ribosomal exit site, and the evolution of the genetic code.

I’m also a research consultant for the NIH.

Courses Taught

Microbiology, Genetics, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Microbial Pathogenesis and various graduate seminars in the molecular biosciences including gene expression, protein synthesis, the molecular biology of RNA, “molecular fossils,” and molecular modeling. I also teach freshman seminars; one on the human genome, another on how biological and geographical factors have influenced human history, and a third on social and economic issues facing humanity in the 21st century.

Selected Publications

Lim, V.I., Curran, J.F. and Garber, M. 2012.  Hydration shells of molecules in molecular association: a mechanism for biomolecular recognition. Journal of Theoretical Biology 301, 42-48. [link]

Sanders, C.L., Lohr, K.J., Gambill, H.L, Curran, R.B. and Curran, J.F. 2008. Anticodon loop mutations perturb reading frame maintenance by the E site tRNA. RNA 14, 1874-1881. [link]

Sanders, C.L. and Curran, J.F. 2007. Genetic analysis of the E site during RF2 programmed frameshifting. RNA 13, 1483-1491. [link]

Lim, V.I., Curran, J.F. and Garber, M. 2005. Ribosomal elongation cycle: Energetic, Kinetic and Stereochemical aspects, Journal of Molecular Biology 351: 470-480. [link]

Lim, V.I. and Curran, J.F. 2001. Analysis of Codon:Anticodon Interactions within the Ribosome Provides New Insights into Codon Reading and the Genetic Code Structure. RNA 7: 942-957. [link]

Wu, L., and Curran, J.F. 1999. An allosteric synthetic DNA. Nucleic Acids Research 27: 1512-1516. [link]

Tsai, F., and Curran, J.F. 1998. tRNA2Gln mutants that translate the CGA arginine codon as glutamine in Escherichia coli. RNA 4: 1514-1522. [link]

Curran, J.F. 1998. Modified Nucleosides in Translation, chapter 27 in Modification and Editing of RNA: The Alteration of RNA Structure and Function, H. Grosjean, and R. Benne, eds. American Society for Microbiology Press, pp. 493-516.

Qian, Q., Curran, J.F., and Bjork, G.R. 1998. The N6-methyl group of the modified nucleoside N6-methyl-N6-threonylcarbamoyladenosine (m6t6A) in transfer RNA of Escherichia coli improves translational efficiency, Journal of Bacteriology 180: 1808-1813. [link]

Li, J.-n., Esberg, B, Curran, J.F., and Bjork, G.R. 1997. Three modified nucleosides present in the anticodon stem and loop influence the in vivo aa-tRNA selection in a tRNA-dependent manner. Journal of Molecular Biology 271: 209-221. [link]

Schwartz, R. and Curran, J.F. 1997. Analyses of frameshifting at UUU-pyrimidine sites, Nucleic Acids Research 25, 2005-2011. [link]

Curran, J.F. 1995. Decoding with the A:I base pair is inefficient. Nucleic Acids Research 23, 683-688. [link]

Curran, J.F. 1993. Analysis of effects of tRNA:message stability on frameshift frequency at the Escherichia coli RF2 programmed frameshift site. Nucleic Acids Research 21, 1837-1843. [link]

Curran, J.F. and Yarus, M. 1987. Reading frame selection and tRNA anticodon loop stacking. Science 238, 1545-1550. [link]

Op-Ed Articles

On the pandemic flu vaccine (December 10, 2005) [link]
On the human papilloma virus vaccine (the cervical cancer vaccine) (April 10, 2006) [link]
On making HPV vaccination mandatory in North Carolina (March 20, 2007) [link]
On the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. (May 8, 2008) [link]