Tag Archive for biochemistry

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:

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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.

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.