Tag Archive for biochemistry

Faculty, Staff Compete in Local Triathlon

Pictured, from left, are Mike McAlear, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; Tom DiMauro, analyst programmer in ITS; James Taft, assistant director of technology support services in ITS; Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry; and Luke Granato, a former assistant basketball coach.

Pictured, from left, are Mike McAlear, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; Tom DiMauro, analyst programmer in ITS; James Taft, assistant director of technology support services in ITS; Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry; and Luke Granato, a former assistant basketball coach at Wesleyan.

Four Wesleyan faculty and staff members completed the Litchfield Hills Olympic Triathlon held July 14 in New Hartford, Conn.

The triathlon featured a 1.5K swim, a 40K bike course, and a scenic, rural back road 10K run.

Wesleyan participants included Mike McAlear, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; Tom DiMauro, analyst programmer in ITS; James Taft, assistant director of technology support services in ITS; and Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry.

Northrop came in third place overall.

NSF Supports Holmes’ Gene Expression Research

Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a $5,125 National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates supplement to enhance his current grant, which supports research titled, “Epigenetic Silencing of Gene Expression in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae.”

Mukerji Receives NSF Grant for Holliday Junctions Study

Ishita Mukerji, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division, and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, has received a $6,750 National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates supplement to enhance her current grant supporting research, “Structure and Function of Holliday Junctions Complexed With Proteins Probed by Fluorescence and UV Raman Spectroscopic Methods.”

Olson, Levan ’12 Published in Molecular Biology Journal

A paper co-authored by Rich Olson, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Sophia Levan ’12 was published in The Journal of Molecular Biology, March 2013. The article is titled, “Vibrio cholerae Cytolysin Recognizes the Heptasaccharide Core of Complex N-Glycans with Nanomolar Affinity.”

The human intestinal pathogen Vibrio cholerae secretes a pore-forming toxin, V.cholerae cytolysin (VCC), which contains two domains that are structurally similar to known carbohydrate-binding proteins. Olson and Levan used a combination of structural and functional approaches to characterize the carbohydrate-binding activity of the VCC toxin.

At Wesleyan, Levan was the recipient of the Butterfield Prize, the Graham Prize and she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She’s currently a student at Harvard University.

McAlear Lab Makes Fundamental Discovery About How Cells Control Genes

Jeff Arace '12, pictured in the foreground, and Ph.D candidate James Arnone, pictured in the back, work on transcriptional regulation of paired genes involved in ribosome biogenesis with their advisor, Michael McAlear, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, in center. Adam Robbins-Pianka BA ’08, MA ’10 and Sara Kass-Gergi ’12 also work in the McAlear Lab.

Jeff Arace ’12, pictured in the foreground, and Ph.D candidate James Arnone, pictured in the back, work on ribosome biogenesis reserarch with their advisor, Michael McAlear, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, in center. Adam Robbins-Pianka BA ’08, MA ’10 and Sara Kass-Gergi ’12 also work in the McAlear Lab.

(Story contributed by Jim H. Smith)

A recent discovery made by Michael McAlear, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and four of his students helps explain the function of ribosomes and sheds light on genetic processes scientists have been trying to decode for more than half a century. A paper authored by McAlear and his laboratory team, describing the discovery, was published last month in the distinguished journal BMC Genomics.

The discovery resulted from long-term research into the regulation of ribosomes, often described as molecular “machines,” the organelles of all living cells in which protein synthesis occurs. Guided by genetic “blueprints” delivered to them by messenger RNA, ribosomes gather amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and assemble them into polypeptides, the intricate chains of amino acids that, depending upon their arrangement, form the unique protein characteristics required for specific biological functions.

Scientists have known about ribosomes and their essential function for a long time. Cell biologist George Palade was awarded the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for discovering them in 1955.  But while scientists have understood what ribosomes are and what they do, they’ve spent the last half century trying to decipher the complex array of metabolic processes that play a role in the production of new proteins. It is one thing to know what ribosomes do, quite another to know how they do it.

Holmes Receives NIH Grant for Histone Protein Research

Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a grant worth $374,150 from the National Institutes of Health. The grant will support a study on “Functional interaction of histone H1 with the core nucleosome” until 2015. Several Wesleyan undergraduates conducted experiments crucial for developing this grant proposal, including Samantha Schilit ’10, MA ’11, who is currently in her first year as a Ph.D. candidate at the Harvard School of Medicine.

Histone proteins organize DNA into its basic organizational unit, the chromosome, and have a fundamental influence on the function of DNA. The four core histones assemble into the disc-shaped nucleosome, while the fifth histone, H1, associates with the DNA linking adjacent nucleosomes. While histone H1 is essential for life in most organisms, its specific functions remain enigmatic.

“We are using molecular genetics to examine the function of histone H1 in yeast cells, focusing on the joint contributions histone H1 and the core histones make to regulating gene expression,” Holmes explains.

Student Research Presented at Molecular Biophysics Retreat

Wesleyan hosted the 13th Annual Molecular Biophysics and Biological Chemistry Retreat Sept. 27 at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Bertrand Garcia-Moreno, professor and chair of the Department of Physics at Johns Hopkins University delivered the keynote address on “Molecular Determinants of Electrostatic Effects in Proteins." García-Moreno investigates the relationships between protein structure, function, energetics, and dynamics with an emphasis on electrostatic properties that govern the actions of proteins in all biological processes.

Wesleyan hosted the 13th Annual Molecular Biophysics and Biological Chemistry Retreat Sept. 27 at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Bertrand Garcia-Moreno, professor and chair of the Department of Physics at Johns Hopkins University delivered the keynote address on “Molecular Determinants of Electrostatic Effects in Proteins.” García-Moreno investigates the relationships between protein structure, function, energetics, and dynamics with an emphasis on electrostatic properties that govern the actions of proteins in all biological processes.

Graduate student Claire Fournier presented her research on “Identification of translation initiation at downstream start codons: strategies for testing MS/MS search algorithms.” Fournier’s advisors are Michael Weir, director of Hughes Program in the Life Sciences, professor of biology; and Danny Krizanc, associate professor of environmental studies, professor of computer science.

Graduate student Claire Fournier presented her research on “Identification of translation initiation at downstream start codons: strategies for testing MS/MS search algorithms.” Fournier’s advisors are Michael Weir, director of Hughes Program in the Life Sciences, professor of biology; and Danny Krizanc, associate professor of environmental studies, professor of computer science.

McAlear Lab Publishes Paper on Co-Regulated Gene Pairs

Michael McAlear, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, is the co-author of “The adjacent positioning of co-regulated gene pairs is widely conserved across eukaryotes,” published in BMC Genomics, October 2012. The article is online here.

The co-authors are Ph.D candidate James Arnone and Jeffrey Arace ’12; Adam Robbins-Pianka BA ’08, MA ’10; and  Sara Kass-Gergi ’12.

The team investigated co-regulated gene sets in S. cerevisiae beyond those related to ribosome biogenesis, and found that a number of these regulons, including those involved in DNA metabolism, heat shock, and the response to cellular stressors were also significantly enriched for adjacent gene pairs. While it has long been understood that there are connections between genomic organization and transcriptional regulation, this study reveals that the strategy of organizing genes from related, co-regulated pathways into pairs of immediately adjacent genes is widespread, evolutionarily conserved, and functionally significant.

MacQueen Lab’s Research Published in PLOS Genetics

Amy MacQueen, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; Karen Voelkel Meiman, research associate; and Sarah Moustafa BA’11, MA’12 are co-authors of the paper, “Full-Length Synaptonemal Complex Grows Continuously during Meiotic Prophase in Budding Yeast,” published by PLOS Genetics, Oct. 11, 2012. Moustafa worked on the paper as an undergraduate researcher and again as a BA/MA student. An abstract and the  paper is online here.

MB&B Department Attends Yeast Genetics Meeting at Princeton

Faculty and students from the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department gather at the 2012 Yeast Genetics & Molecular Biology Meeting in August.

Faculty, graduate students and recent alumni from the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department gather at the 2012 Yeast Genetics & Molecular Biology Meeting in August.

The Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department sent three professors and six students to the international 2012 Yeast Genetics & Molecular Biology Meeting held at Princeton University recently, giving Wesleyan the largest per capita representation in the world.

Attending from the department were Associate Professor and Chair Michael McAlear and his graduate student, James Arnone; Assistant Professor Amy MacQueen and her graduate students Pritam Mukherjee and Lina Yisehak, and recent alumni Sarah Beatie ’12 and Louis Taylor ’12; and Associate Professor Scott Holmes and his graduate student, Rebecca Ryznar. All spoke or presented on various aspects of yeast genetics, molecular biology, mitosis and gene expression.

The meeting, sponsored by the Genetics Society of America and held July 31-Aug. 5, is the premier meeting for students, postdoctoral fellows, research staff, and principal investigators studying various aspects of eukaryotic biology in yeast.

NIH Supports Olson’s Infectious Disease Therapy Research

Rich Olson

Rich Olson

Rich Olson, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a grant worth $460,197 from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on Aug. 8. The grant will support his research on “Mechanism of Cell Membrane Targeting by Vibrio cholera Cytolysin” through July 31, 2015.

Vibrio cholerae cytolysin (VCC) belongs to a family of secreted toxins produced by pathogenic bacteria that allows them to evade the immune system and to colonize the human body. Understanding how bacteria and their toxins target cells is important in developing therapies against human infectious diseases.

Students Accepted into Molecular Biology Honor Society

Three Wesleyan students were accepted into the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Honor Society.
The students are Lee Gottesdiener ’12, Sophia Levan ’12 and Alejandra Olvera ’12.

These outstanding students have been selected based on their academic achievements, their commitment to research and science outreach.

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 12,000 members. Founded in 1906, the Society is based in Rockville, M.D. The Society’s purpose is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through publication of scientific and educational journals: the Journal of Biological ChemistryMolecular & Cellular Proteomics,  and the Journal of Lipid Research, organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, and promoting the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce.