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2018 Biochemistry Newsletter now available

Monday, November 5th, 2018

The 2018 Biochemistry @ Iowa newsletter is hot off the presses and available for download. Alumni and friends should receive a hard copy in the mail this week. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please send your contact information to biochem@uiowa.edu. While you are at it, feel free to send us your news and updates! Previous newsletters are also available online.

Congrats Summer 2018 Biochemistry PhD Graduates

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Quinn Li, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Ashley Spies, received a PhD on August 3, 2018, entitled, “Elucidating enzyme catalyic power and protein-ligand dynamics of human glucokinase: The role of modern allostery”. Quinn plans to travel after her PhD.

Mark Miller, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Adrian Elcock, received a PhD on August 3, 2018, entitled, “Use of osmotic coefficient measurements to validate and to correct the interaction thermodynamics of amino acids in molecular dynamics simulations”. Mark will be teaching Chemistry and Physics at Iowa Mennonite School in the fall.

Emily Malcolm Cushing, a Biochemistry PhD student mentor by Dr. Brandon Davies, received a PhD on August 3, 2018, entitled, “Regulation of plasma triglycerides by ANGPTL4 and GPIHBP1”. Emily is currently working as a post doc in Dr. Brandon Davies’ lab.

Brittany Ripley Receives AHA Predoctoral Fellowship.

Monday, July 30th, 2018

Brittany Ripley, Biochemistry graduate student in Dr. M. Todd Washington’s lab, has received an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship. Brittany’s proposal entitled, “RAD6-18, the master regulator of translesion synthesis” will be funded at the maximum amount for two full years. Brittany’s project is described below.

“My research focuses on how cells cope with DNA damage during cell division. Specifically I study how cells regulate the replication of damaged DNA via the ubiquitin conjugating and ligase enzymes, Rad6 and Rad18. To understand regulation, I am determining the network of interactions Rad6 and Rad18 make with two vital polymerases in the DNA damage bypass pathway, translesion synthesis, and how these interactions affect translesion synthesis.”

Hannah Campbell Recieves AHA Predoctoral Fellowship

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Hannah Campbell, Biochemistry graduate student in Dr. Kris DeMali’s lab, has received an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship. Hannah’s proposal entitled, “Force-induced apoptosis and the mechanoprotective role of PAK2” will be funded at the maximum amount for two full years. Hannah’s project is described below.

“All cells experience forces throughout their lifetimes. These forces are sensed by cell surface adhesion receptors and trigger robust actin cytoskeletal rearrangements and growth of the associated adhesion complex to counter the applied forces. This process is known as cell stiffening and is generally thought to be beneficial to the overall health of the cell.  However there are also instances in hypertensive patients and other diseased settings when cells experience supraphysiological forces that initiate cell death.  The key determinants of whether cells survive or die in response to force are not well understood. Here, we show that application of force on E-cadherin activates p21-activated kinase 2 (PAK2). In addition, force recruits PAK2 to the cadherin containing adhesion complex. At this complex, we hypothesize PAK2 serves as a critical component of a signaling cascade culminating in increased contractility and cell stiffening.”

Congrats Hannah!

Tingting Duan Featured on the July Cover of Genetics

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

An image from an article by Tingting Duan (Graduate Student, Geyer Lab) and Pamela Geyer was featured on the July cover of Genetics. The image was taken using a confocal microscope and shows a Drosophila 7-day testis.  Mature spermatozoa form through a process called sperm individualization, wherein an actin rich individualization compex (blue spikes) separates individual sperm (gold) from a 64-spermatid syncytium. Individualization complexes are labeled with phalloidin and sperm are labeled with an antibody to polyglycylated tubulin found in the sperm tails.

Tingting’s article was also featured in Genetics and is described below:

“Drosophila Suppressor of Hairy-wing [Su(Hw)] is a multivalent transcription factor. Although best known for its gypsy retrotransposon insulator function, its functions at non-gypsy genomic binding sites are poorly understood. Duan and Geyer study the newly-discovered requirement for Su(Hw) in spermatogenesis, showing that Su(Hw) is required in testis cyst cells for sustained male fertility. Additionally, their studies build evidence that the prominent function of Su(Hw) at non-gypsy binding sites is as a transcriptional repressor, with its loss causing cell-specific changes in gene expression.”

Congrats Tingting!

Spring 2018 Wallrath Lab Accomplishments

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Lori Wallrath (Professor and Vice Chair, Biochemistry) was featured in the Spring 2018 addition of Quest, a Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) new publication, where she praised MDA’s “umbrella” structure of supporting dozens of neuromuscular diseases so that researchers and clinician’s benefit from the “cross-fertilization” of ideas. The article can be found at: http://www.mda.org/quest.

Recent research from the Wallrath Lab was published in Aging Cell. This article describes a new model and potential therapy for cardiac disease associated with several types of muscular dystrophy that are caused by mutations in the human LMNA gene. This project was in collaboration with Dr. Girish Melkani (San Diego State University). https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/acel.12747

Biochemistry Senior Laura Fischer Featured in The Daily Iowan

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Laura Fischer, recent Biochemistry graduate, was featured in the May 10, 2018, edition of The Daily Iowan.  Please click on Laura’s picture for link to the May 10th Daily Iowan.

Tien Thuy (Jane) Nguyen Awarded the Hancher-Finkbine Undergraduate Student Medallion

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Tien Thuy (Jane) Nguyen was awarded the Hancher-Finkbine Undergraduate Student Medallion at the 101st Finkbine Dinner on April 10, 2018.  Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers was emcee, and UI President J. Bruce Harreld presented the Hancher-Finkbine Medallions and Distinguished Student Leader certificates. 

Jane Nguyen, from Sioux City, Iowa, is majoring in biochemistry in the Carver College of Medicine. Nguyen is an active leader, participant, and co-founder of the Conversation Center, an integrated learning platform designed to provide non-confident English speakers the opportunity to explore and better understand the English language. The center, now a part of the rhetoric department’s curriculum, has provided over 3,101 independent one-on-one sessions since the spring of 2016. In addition, Nguyen has actively participated in more than 800 hours of undergraduate independent research in the Department of Biochemistry, focusing on Replication Protein A and its effect on DNA repair. She exemplifies leadership not only in the classroom but also in her extracurricular activities. As current president and co-founder of Alpha Kappa Delta Phi, Nguyen has played an integral part in the organization’s accomplishments, including achieving active status in the Multicultural Greek Council, establishing the Chapter Alumnae Association, and hosting campuswide workshops aimed at increasing mental health awareness within the Asian community. In the spring of 2017, Nguyen was awarded the T. Anne Cleary scholarship and the Helen Reich scholarship for her scholarship, leadership, and service.

Congratulations, Jane!

14th Annual Gene F. Lata Undergraduate Research Symposium

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Ten students presented at this year’s Undergraduate Honors Program. This year marks the fourteenth year for the Gene F. Lata Undergraduate Research Symposium. Please join Professor Marc Wold, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Honors Advisor, in congratulating these 2018 graduates and their research mentors for a job well done.

(back row – left to right): Steven Huang, Gabriel Fortunato, Preston Anderson, Benjamin Spector
(front row – left to right): Devin Reusch, Alexandra Bess, Tien Thuy (Jane) Nguyen, Laura Fischer, Titus Hou
(far right) – Lance Heady
  • Preston Anderson
    Mentor: John Engelhardt
    Submucosal Gland Myoepithelial Cells Are Reserve Stem Cells That Can Regenerate Mouse Tracheal Epithelium 
  • Alexandra Bess
    Mentor: Jennifer Fiegel
    Protein Effects of BALF on Various Polystyrene Nanoparticles
  • Laura Fischer
    Mentor: Marc Wold
    A Potential Role of Alternative Replication Protein A in Huntington’s Disease Progression
  • Gabriel Fortunato
    Mentor: Amnon Kohen
    Uncovering the Evolutionary Mechanism of Enzyme Catalysis
  • Lance Heady
    Mentor: Andrew Pieper
    A Neuron and it’s Survival: A Tale of Drug Discovery
  • Titus Hou
    Mentor: Ernesto Fuentes
    A Newly Identified Sub-Pocket That Plays a Unique Role in Scribble PDZ1 – SGEF iPBM Interaction
  • Steven Huang
    Mentor: Ernesto Fuentes
    The Structural Characterization and Ligand Identification of the SrrB Cache Domain
  • Tien Thuy (Jane) Nguyen
    Mentor: Marc Wold
    Diverse Interactions of the Multifunctional, Regulatory Domain of Replication Protein A
  • Devin Reusch
    Mentor: Todd Washington
    Polymerase Switching During Translesion Synthesis: A Tale of the Tail
  • Benjamin Spector
    Mentor: David Price
    Association of the Pol II CTD Phosphatase Ssu72 with Transcription Complexes

The symposium also included the presentation of two undergraduate awards, made possible by a gift from Alap Subramanian. The H.G. Wittmann Scholar Award was presented to Steven Huang (Fuentes lab) and the H.G. Khorana Scholar Award was presented to Laura Fischer (Wold lab), recognizing their exceptional understanding of biochemistry and its value to society.

Congratulations to everyone named above and all of our 2018 graduates!

 

Kelli Sylvers Receives AHA Predoctoral Fellowship

Monday, April 30th, 2018

 

Kelli Sylvers, Biochemistry graduate student in Dr. Brandon Davies’ lab, has received an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship. The AHA Predoctoral Fellowship is intended to support “promising students” in pre-doctoral or clinical health training programs. Kelli’s proposal entitled, “Lipase inhibition by ANGPTL3 and ANGPTL8” will be funded at the maximum amount for two full years. The project focuses on understanding how two proteins, ANGPTL3 and ANGPTL8, regulate HDL and triglyceride metabolism. High triglyceride levels and low HDL levels are associated with cardiovascular disease. The project asks two important questions: 1) How does ANGPTL3 inhibit its targets lipoprotein lipase (the protein responsible for clearing triglycerides from the blood) and endothelial lipase (a protein that reduces HDL levels in the blood). 2) Does ANGPTL3 require ANGPTL8 to inhibit EL (the Davies lab has previously shown that ANGPTL3 requires ANGPTL8 to inhibit LPL). To answer these questions, experiments have been designed to study protein binding and protein activity as well as studies using a mouse model lacking ANGPTL8 to understand the effects in a living organism. Targeting ANGPTL3 or ANGPTL8 has the potential to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering plasma triglyceride levels. This research may enhance our ability to target these proteins in a way that would have less side-effects or unintended consequences for patients being treated for cardiovascular disorders.