Tag Archive for biochemistry

Grad Student’s Graphic to Appear on Journal’s Cover

Katherine Kaus's story and figure will appear in the September 2014 Journal of Molecular Biology. The figure depicts the structure of a domain of the Vibrio vulnificus hemolysin that binds cell-surface glycans allowing the toxin to attack target cells. The structure was determined using a technique called X-ray crystallography.

Katherine Kaus’s figure, based on an article she co-authored, will appear on the cover of the Sept. 9 Journal of Molecular Biology. The figure depicts the structure of a domain of the Vibrio vulnificus hemolysin that binds cell-surface glycans allowing the toxin to attack target cells. The structure was determined using a technique called X-ray crystallography.

A figure created by Katherine Kaus, graduate student in the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department, was selected to run as the featured cover graphic in the Sept. 9 Journal of Molecular Biology.

The graphic is related to her article, titled “Glycan Specificity of the Vibrio vulnificus Hemolysin Lectin Outlines Evolutionary History of Membrane Targeting by a Toxin Family,” which was published in the journal on July 29. It is co-authored by Rich Olson, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and researchers at the University of Connecticut. The abstract appears online here.

Vibrio vulnificus is an emerging human pathogen that causes severe food poisoning and opportunistic infections with a mortality rate exceeding 50 percent.

The aquatic pathogen secretes a pore-forming toxin (PFT) called V. vulnificus hemolysin (VVH) which form transmembrane channels in cellular membranes. “Determining the mechanism for how PFTs bind membranes is important in understanding their role in disease and for developing possible ways to block their action,” Kaus explained in the paper’s abstract. Sequence analysis in light of the authors structural and functional data suggests that V. vulnificus hemolysin may represent an earlier step in the evolution of Vibrio PFTs.

State Grant will Support Hingorani’s Research on Lynch Syndrome

Manju Hingorani

Manju Hingorani

Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a grant worth $324,127 from the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health on May 1.

Hingorani will use the grant to address an important need for new diagnostic technology for Lynch Syndrome (LS), a genetic disorder involving malfunction of DNA mismatch repair, which substantively increases the risk of colorectal, endometrial and other cancers. About 150,000 patients are diagnosed with colon cancer in the U.S. per year, of whom more than one in 35 have LS, and three or more of their relatives are at risk for the disorder (about one in 500 Connecticut residents).

“Early diagnosis of LS can profoundly affect the way in which cancer patients are treated—with respect to surgery, chemotherapy and future surveillance—and provide analogous benefits to their family,” Hingorani explained.

Current validated tests for LS have limitations that lower their feasibility and widespread use in screening at-risk populations.

“Our hypothesis is that the core functions of MMR proteins can be measured directly, quantitatively, rapidly, reliably and at clinically relevant protein concentrations on a nano-structured surface,” she said.

This project, proposed in collaboration by investigators Hingorani and Prabir Patra, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Biomedical Engineering Program at the University of Bridgeport, is expected to enable development of novel diagnostic nanosensors that will enable substantive advances in the screening, diagnosis and treatment of colorectal and other cancers.

Oliver Honored with NIH Award for Protein Translocation Research

Don Oliver

Don Oliver

Professor Don Oliver received a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) (R15) for his research titled “Mechanism of SecA-dependent protein translocation.” The grant, worth $374,148, was awarded on April 15.

Oliver is the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Oliver studies how proteins are targeted to and transported across biological membranes utilizing bacteria as a simple model system.”The current genetic and biochemical studies are designed to elucidate a molecular motor protein, SecA ATPase, that drives proteins through a universally conserved protein-conducting channel by a largely unknown molecular mechanism,” he said.  “Clarification of the transport mechanism by this motor and its interplay with the channel is essential for understanding comparable protein transport systems in higher cells.”

In addition, such studies should allow for the development of novel antibacterial agents against SecA in order to combat the spread of multi-drug resistant bacterial pathogens.

The grant funds will be utilized to support two Ph.D. Students, a BA/MA fifth-year student, and four undergraduate research students that comprise of Oliver’s research group.

Taylor, Hingorani, Grad Students Co-Author Paper on Protein Function

Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies; Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Shreya Sawant and chemistry graduate student Daniel Czyzyk co-authored “E. coli Heptosyltransferase I: Exploration of Protein Function and Dynamics” published in Biochemistry, 52, 5158–5160 in 2013. They presented the paper at the 23rd Enzyme Mechanisms Conference held in Coronado Bay, Calif. in January 2013 and at the 57th Biophysical Society Conference held in Philadelphia, Pa. in February 2013.

Students, Faculty Host DNA Workshop for Area Children

Wesleyan students and faculty participated in a Minds in Motion event at Snow Elementary School on March 8. Ishita Mukerji, dean of the Natural Sciences and mathematics Division, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, hosted a DNA workshop with nine middle school students.

Wesleyan students and faculty participated in a Minds in Motion event at Snow Elementary School on March 8. Ishita Mukerji (not pictured), dean of the Natural Sciences and mathematics Division, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, hosted a DNA workshop with nine middle school students.

Mukerji Elected to Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering

Ishita Mukerji

Ishita Mukerji

Ishita Mukerji, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division, is one of 50 local scientists to be elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. Mukerji also is professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and is an expert on fluorescence and vibrational spectroscopy.

Mukerji is the 10th Wesleyan faculty to be elected into the academy. She will be introduced at CASE’s 39th annual meeting and dinner on June 5 at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell, Conn.

Election to the Academy is on the basis of scientific and engineering distinction achieved through significant contributions in theory or applications, as demonstrated by original published books and papers, patents, the pioneering of new and developing fields and innovative products, outstanding leadership of nationally recognized technical teams, and external professional awards in recognition of scientific and engineering excellence.

“I’m thrilled and honored to join the academy! This is a great recognition of the hard work my research group, consisting of undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs have put in over the years and the strong support that Wesleyan gives to scientific research. This type of recognition really underscores the excellence of the sciences at Wesleyan and the scholar-teacher model that we embrace,” Mukerji said. “I look forward to working and networking with other scientists throughout the state and helping the academy do it’s work to advise the people and government of Connecticut on scientific issues.”

Mukerji’s research interests focus on the use of spectroscopic tools to investigate challenging problems in biology

Wesleyan Students Teach Local Children about Science

On Nov. 9, Wesleyan’s informal science education class in conjunction with the Wesleyan Science Outreach Club presented Science Saturday, a semi-annual fun afternoon of hands-on science for the whole family. Activities took place inside the Exley Science Center.

Wesleyan students taught science lessons that they have been working on this semester, with experiments involving dissections of biological specimens, roller coaster models, and an explosions demo. More than 50 local children and their parents attended.

Andrea Roberts, visiting assistant professor of chemistry; Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; and students from the CHEM 241 Informal Science Education course coordinated the event.

Photos of the event are below:

sciencesat9

Hingorani’s DNA Repair Studies Published in Journals

Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, is the author of “Distinct structural alterations in proliferating cell nuclear antigen block DNA mismatch repair,” published in Biochemistry on Aug. 20, 2013. Read an abstract of the paper online here.

She’s also the author of “Slow Conformational Changes in MutS and DNA Direct Ordered Transitions between Mismatch Search, Recognition and Signaling of DNA Repair,” published in The Journal of Molecular Biology on Aug. 20, 2013. Her former students, F. Noah Biro ’09 and Christopher Doucette ’11 co-authored the paper. Read the abstract online here.

MacQueen Wins Grant from NIH for Synaptonemal Complex Research

Amy MacQueen, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, has received a three-year grant for $372,445 from the National Institutes of Health Academic Research Enhancement Award program to support her research on “Structure and Dynamics of the Synaptonemal Complex.” The grant was awarded in August 2013.

Taylor, Hingorani, Students Co-Author Paper in Biochemistry Journal

Two faculty members and two graduate students co-authored a paper published in the July 18 edition of the academic journal, Biochemistry.

Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies; Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; chemistry graduate student Daniel Czyzyk; and molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Shreya Sawant wrote the paper, “Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase I: Investigation of Protein Dynamics of a GT-B Structural Enzyme.”

It appears online here.

Biochemistry is a publication of the American Chemical Society.