Sandra L. Wolin, M.D., Ph.D.

Sandra L. Wolin, M.D., Ph.D.

  • Center for Cancer Research
  • National Cancer Institute
  • Building 560, Room 11-82C
  • Frederick, MD 21702-1201
  • 301-846-1237


Sandra Wolin studies the biogenesis, function and turnover of RNA molecules. Her laboratory has identified proteins that recognize misfolded and otherwise defective RNAs. By studying a bacterial ortholog of one such protein, the ring-shaped Ro60 autoantigen, they discovered that this protein is tethered by noncoding “Y RNA” to a ring-shaped nuclease, forming a double-ringed ribonucleoprotein machine specialized for structured RNA degradation. The laboratory is characterizing this new RNA degradation machine, identifying additional roles for Ro60 and Y RNAs in both human cells and bacteria, and uncovering other pathways by which defective and damaged RNAs are recognized and handled. Her laboratory also investigates how failure to degrade these RNAs contributes to human disease.

Areas of Expertise

Noncoding RNAs and Their Functions
RNA Surveillance Pathways
RNA Chaperones
RNA Damage


Selected Recent Publications

The Autoantigen Repertoire and the Microbial RNP World

Williams SG, Wolin SL
Trends in Molecular Medicine. 27: 422-435, 2021.
Full-Text Article
[ Journal Article ]

An RNA Repair Operon Regulated by Damaged tRNAs

Hughes KJ, Chen X, Burroughs AM, Aravind L, Wolin SL
Cell Reports. 33: 108527, 2020.
Full-Text Article
[ Journal Article ]

Noncoding Y RNAs Regulate the Levels, Subcellular Distribution and Protein Interactions of their Ro60 Autoantigen Partner

Leng Y, Sim S, Magidson V and Wolin SL
Nucleic Acids Research. 48: 6919-6930, 2020. [ Journal Article ]

Cellular RNA Surveillance in Health and Disease

Wolin SL, Maquat LE
Science. 366: 822-827, 2019. [ Journal Article ]


Photo of Ruchika Bhujbalrao
Postdoctoral Fellow (Visiting)
Ruchika Narendra Bhujbalrao, Ph.D.
Photo of Marco Boccitto
Special Volunteer
Marco E. Boccitto, Ph.D.
photo of Yuanyuan Leng
Research Fellow
Yuanyuan Leng, Ph.D.
Photo of Hyeyeon Nam
Postdoctoral Fellow (Visiting)
Hyeyeon Nam, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist
Soyeong Sim, Ph.D.
Photo of Sandra Williams
Adjunct Investigator
Sandra G. Williams, M.D., Ph.D.


April 2024:  Congratulations to Sandy on her election to the National Academy of Sciences!

July 2023:  Congratulations to Hyeyeon for winning a 2024 Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE)!

April 2023:  Sandy is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

October 2022:  Congratulations to Sandra Williams for receiving a best poster award at the NCI RNA Biology Initiative Retreat! 

June 2022:  Congratulations to Sandy on her election as RNA Society President!

December 2021:  Sandy receives the ASCB Sandra Mazur Senior Leadership Award

April 2021:  Congratulations to Xinguo for winning first place and a travel award for his oral presentation at the 2021 Staff Scientists/Staff Clinicians retreat!

New mechanism for regulating differentiation discovered in human embryonic stem cells


Human embryonic stem cells.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

CCR researchers have found that the RNA exosome plays an important role in restraining differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Differentiation is the process by which human ESCs cells develop into the three germ layers that form the body: endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm. All tissues and organs in the body can be formed from human ESCs. 

This laboratory research is the first time that the RNA exosome has been studied in human ESCs as opposed to progenitor cells, which are more mature cells that have already begun to differentiate into a specific cell type. This study, led by Sandra L. Wolin, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of the RNA Biology Laboratory, appeared July 15, 2019, in the Journal of Cell Biology.

June 2019: Congratulations to Yuanyuan for winning a 2020 FARE Award.

Kevin is selected for the NCI iCURE program!

New study shows normally helpful natural bacteria may also trigger lupus

CCR scientists have discovered that a protein produced by bacteria that naturally inhabit our bodies may trigger the autoimmune disease lupus. The results of the study could unveil an entirely new set of drug targets for treating lupus and other autoimmune diseases. Read more…

July 2017: Cedric has won a FARE Award.  Congratulations, Cedric!


Science Translational Medicine cover March 2018

Commensal orthologs of the human autoantigen Ro60 as triggers of autoimmunity in lupus

Published Date

Lupus: No Longer a Lone Wolf. Lupus (represented by the wolf, Canis lupus) is a chronic autoimmune disorder that progresses over decades. Greiling et al. analyzed commensal bacteria in lupus patients and identified species with Ro60 proteins similar to human Ro60, an early autoantigen in lupus. Bacterial Ro60 could activate patient lymphocytes, and colonization of mice with the bacterium instigated lupus-like symptoms. These results suggest that immune recognition of a bacterial protein leads to cross-reactive immune cells targeting the human version, thereby initiating lupus.


Greiling et al., Science Translational Medicine, Vol 10, Issue 434, 28 March 2018: Vol 10, Issue 434