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Dr. Charles Brenner stepping down as chair of Department of Biochemistry

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

Charles Brenner, PhD, has announced he is stepping down as chair and DEO of the Department of Biochemistry, effective August 13, 2020. Dr. Brenner has accepted a position as the inaugural Alfred E Mann Chair of the new Department of Diabetes & Cancer Metabolism within the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California.

“Leading the Department of Biochemistry for the past 11 years has been one of the greatest joys of my life,” Brenner says. “I’ve been fortunate to have worked with so many dedicated people in our department and across the college, and to expand my own research program. I look forward to continued collaborations with several Iowa colleagues, and I am excited and honored to begin this new opportunity at City of Hope.”

While at Iowa Dr. Brenner was the recipient of many awards including the Iowa Board of Regents Award for Faculty Excellence (2014) and the 2016 Award for Exemplary Contributions to Education from the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Dr. Brenner is currently the recipient of the Mary Swartz Rose Senior Investigator Award from the American Society of Nutrition.

Kris DeMali, PhD, professor and vice chair of the department, will serve as interim chair and DEO, effective August 14, 2020. Dr. DeMali joined the department in 2006 and has shown leadership as a researcher, teacher, and mentor. Her research focuses on how physical forces and changes in mechanical properties of cells and tissues contribute to development, physiology, and disease. Her research is supported by a Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

We wish Dr. Brenner all the best and we thank him for his many contributions to the Department of Biochemistry.

Congratulations Dr. Brenner!

Congrats Spring 2020 Biochemistry PhD Graduates

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

Sean Tompkins, a MSTP/Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Eric Taylor, received a PhD on May 15, 2020. His thesis was entitled, “The role of Mitochondrial Pyruvate carrier in the development of Hepatocellular Carcinoma.” Sean is completing his residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Illinois Chicago.


Tingting Duan, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Pam Geyer, received a PhD on May 15, 2020. Her thesis was entitled, “The nuclear lamina is required for stem cell mitosis and survival.” Tingting is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Dr. Geyer’s lab.


Julio Sanchez, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Catherine Musselman, received a PhD on May 15, 2020. His thesis was entitled, “Characterization of the DNA binding activity of the BRG1 AT-hook-bromodomain.” 

Hannah Campbell receives 2020 Subramanian Thesis Award

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

Hannah Campbell, who completed her PhD with Dr. Kris DeMali, was awarded the 2020 Subramanian Award for the best PhD thesis in the Department of Biochemistry. The Subramanian Award is made possible by a gift from Dr. Alap Subramanian, a 1964 PhD student from the department, who parlayed his training with the late George Kalnitsky, (and with Irving Klotz at Northwestern and both Bernard Davis and Herman Kalckar at Harvard Medical School), into a highly successful career at the Max-Planck-Institute.

Dr. Campbell’s thesis was entitled, “Mechanisms of E-Cadherin Force Transmission.” Hannah received her PhD in August 2019 and is currently an Applications Scientist at Integrated DNA Technologies in Coralville, Iowa.


Congratulations Dr. Campbell!

Three Undergraduate Students Awarded 2020 Rex Montgomery Scholarships

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

The 2020 Rex Montgomery Scholarships were awarded to:

  • Geoff Collins, Dr. David Price’s laboratory
  • Dariya (Dasha) Kozlova, Dr. Brandon Davies laboratory
  • Cade Rahlf, Dr. Madeline Shea’s laboratory

Rex Montgomery Scholarships recognize sophomore or junior undergraduate students for their outstanding academic record and commitment to research. The purpose of this scholarship is to ease the recipient’s financial load at the University of Iowa during his/her undergraduate education and research training.

This scholarship was established in 2014 by the late Dr. Rex Montgomery, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Biochemistry. Dr. Montgomery began his career at the University of Iowa in 1955, and was admired for his impact as a researcher, teacher and mentor. Dr. Montgomery was an internationally recognized carbohydrate biochemist and textbook author. While on the faculty, he served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Medicine, the Vice President of Research for the University and was the founding director of the University of Iowa Physician Assistant Program. Dr. Montgomery retired in 2005 after more than 50 years on the faculty.

Brianna Lupo and Francesca Spencer awarded Montgomery Scholar’s Prizes

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

Brianna Lupo, who did undergraduate research in the Dr. Catherine Musselman laboratory, and Francesca Spencer who did undergraduate research in the Dr. Daniel Weeks laboratory, have been awarded 2020 Montgomery Biochemistry Scholar’s Prizes for their outstanding research accomplishments and excellent presentations at the Lata Symposium.

This prize was established by mentees, colleagues and friends of the late Dr. Rex Montgomery, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Biochemistry. Dr. Montgomery began his career at the University of Iowa in 1955, and is admired for his impact as a researcher, teacher and mentor. Dr. Montgomery is an internationally recognized carbohydrate biochemist and textbook author. While on the faculty, he served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Medicine, the Vice President of Research for the University and was the founding director of the University of Iowa Physician Assistant Program. Dr. Montgomery retired in 2005 after more than 50 years on the faculty.



The Whittmann and Khorana Scholar awards

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

The Wittmann and Khorana Scholar awards are given to a male and female Biochemistry major, respectively, recognizing their exceptional understanding of biochemistry and its value to society.

Nick Shaw won the 2020 Professor H.G. Wittmann Scholar Award. Nick did research in the Wallrath lab.  After graduating, he will be continuing to perform research in the Wallrath lab on nuclear envelope-related myopathies.  Next fall, he will be pursing a position at UIHC that involves patient interactions, with plans of attending medical school in the near future.

Emeleeta Paintsil won the 2020 Professor H.G. Khorana Scholar Award.  Emeleeta did research in the Spies lab examining the functions of RAD52 on replication fork remodeling enzymes.  She will be attending the Medical College of Wisconsin in the fall to pursue a Ph.D. in their Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in Biomedical Sciences.

These awards are sponsored by Dr. Alap Subramanian.  Dr. Subramanian earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa in 1964 studying with Dr. George Kalnitsky.


Congratulations Nick and Emeleeta!

Benjamin Hinz awarded Summer ICRU Fellowship

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Benjamin Hinz, a Biochemistry undergraduate in the Wallrath laboratory, received a Summer ICRU Fellowship. He will be performing on-line research focused on the genetics of rare muscular dystrophies caused by mutations in genes encoding nuclear envelope proteins.

Congratulations Benjamin!

Department of Biochemistry 2020 Publications

Monday, May 11th, 2020

Department of Biochemistry 2020 Publications since April 30, 2020

  • Tiwari, M. Lopez-Redondo, L. Miguel-Romero, et al., The SrrAB two-component system regulates Staphylococcus aureuspathogenicity through redox sensitive cysteines, PNAS (2020),
  • Zhang, H. T. Rube, C.A. Vakulskas, et al., Systematic in vitro profiling of off-target affinity, cleavagre and efficiency for CRISPR enzymes, Nucleic Acids Research (2020),
  • Pufall, A.M. Wilson, An idea to explore: A collaboration and cross training in an extended classroom- based undergraduate research experience between primarily undergraduate and research-intensive institutions, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education (2020),
  • C. Sanchez, L. Zhang, S. Evoli, et al., The molecular basis of specific DNA binding by the BRG1 AT-hook and bromodomain, BBA – Gene Regulatory Mechanisms (2018),
  • Skuodas, A. Clemons, M. Hayes, et al., The ABCF gene family facilitates disaggregation during animal development, Molecular Biology of the Cell (2020),
  • K. Shetty, R. Walzem, B. Davies, A novel NanoBiT-based assay monitors the interaction between lipoprotein lipase and GPIHBP1 in real time, Journal of Lipid Research (2020),
  • Qiao, S.K. Shetty, K.M. Spitler, et al., Obesity Reduces Maternal Blood Triglyceride Concentrations by Reducing Angiopoietin-like Protein 4 Expression in Mice, Diabetes (2020),
  • Johnson, M.G. Flores, J. Rosa, et al., The High Content of Fructose in Human Semen Competitively Inhibits Broad and Potent Antivirals That Target High-Mannose Glycans, Journal of Virology (2020),
  • DeMali, A. Salvi, J. Bays, Mechanisms Linking Mechanotransduction and Cell Metabolism, The FASEB Journal (2020),
  • H. Elcock, Challenges to the Creation of Dynamic Structural Models of Intracellular Systems,Biophysical Journal (2020),
  • Duan, N. Green, T.L. Tootle, P.K. Geyer, Nuclear architecture as an intrinsic regulator of Drosophila female germline stem cell maintenance, Current Opinion in Insect Science (2020),
  • Duan, S.C. Kitzman, P.K. Geyer, Survival of Drosophila germline stem cells requires the chromatin binding protein Barrier-to-autointegration factor, Development (2020),
  • Li, C.B. Ball, G. Collins, et al., Human cytomegalovirus IE2 drives transcription initiation from a select subset of late infection viral promoters by host RNA polymerase II, PLoS pathogens (2020),
  • M. Kilpatrick, R.W. Mahling, M.A. Shea, Energetics of Calmodulin Recognition of a Skeletal Muscle Ryanodine Receptor Site, Biophysical Journal (2020),
  • Stefanovie, S. Hengel, J. Mlcouskova, et al., DSS1 interacts with and stimulates RAD52 to promote the repair of DSBs, Nucleic Acids Research (2020),
  • Malacaria, M. Honda, A Franchirro, M. Spies, P. Pichierri, Physiological and Pathological Roles of RAD52 at DNA Replication Forks, Cancers (2020),
  • Honda, E. Paintsil, M. Spies, RAD52 DNA Repair Protein is a Gatekeeper that Protects DNA Replication Forks by Regression by Fork Reversal Motors, Biophysical Journal (2020),
  • Troitskaia, B. Stekas, M. Spies, Y.R. Chemla, Sequence-Dependent Pausing of a DNA Repair Helicase, Biophysical Journal (2020),
  • Subramanyam, M. Spies, RAD51 discrimination between single-and double-strand DNA: a matter of flexibility and enthalpy, The EMBO Journal (2020),
  • Earle, T.J. Kirby, G.R. Fedorchak, et al., Mutant lamins cause nuclear envelope rupture and DNA damage in skeletal muscle cells, Nature Materials (2020),
  • M. Weaver, L.M. Cortez, T.H. Khoang, et al., Visualizing Rev1 Catalyze Protein-template DNA Synthesis, bioRxiv (2020),
  • M. Ripley, M.S. Gildenberg, M.T. Washington, Control of DNA Damage Bypass by Ubiquitylation of PCNA, Genes (2020),
  • Nakamori, G. Panigrahi, S. Lanni, et al., A slipped-CAG DNA-binding small molecule induces trinucleotide-repeat contractions in vivo, Nature Genetics (2020),
  • Gilmour, B.C., Gudmundsrud, R., Frank, J., Hov, A., Hindkjær Lautrup, S., Aman, Y., Røsjø, H., Brenner, C., Ziegler, M., Tysnes, O.B., Tzoulis, C., Omland, T., Søraas, A., Holmøy, T., Bergersen, L.H., Storm-Mathisen, J., Nilsen, H., Evandro F Fang, E.F., “Targeting NAD+in Translational Research to Relieve Diseases and Conditions of Metabolic Stress and Ageing,” Mechanisms of Ageing and Development186, 2020, DOI:10.1016/j.mad.2020.111208
  • Fluharty, N.T. & Brenner, C., “Fat Mobilization Without Weight Loss is a Potentially Rapid Response to Nicotinamide Riboside in Obese People: It’s Time to Test with Exercise, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in press, 2020.
  • Heer, C.D. & Brenner, C., “Letting off Electrons to Cope with Metabolic Stress,” Nature Metabolism, in press, 2020.
  • Matasic, D.S., Yoon, J-Y., Mehdi, H., McLendon, J.M., Schmidt, M.S., Greiner, A.M., Quinones, P., Morgan, G.M., Boudreau, R., Irani, K., Brenner, C. & London, B., “Modulation of the Cardiac Sodium Channel Nav1.5 Peak and Late Currents by NAD+Precursors,” Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, v. 141, pp. 70-81,
  • Parker, R., Schmidt, M.S., Cain, O., Gunson, B., & Brenner, C., “The NAD+Metabolome is Functionally Depressed in Patients Undergoing Liver Transplantation for Alcohol-related Liver Disease,” Hepatology Communications, in press, 2020.
  • Gerasimenko, M., Cherepanov, S., Furuhara, K., Lopatina, O., Salmina, A., Shabalova, A., Tsuji, C., Yokoyama, S., Ishihara, K., Brenner, C., & Higashida, H., “Nicotinamide Riboside Supplementation Corrects the Deficits in Oxytocin, Sociability and Anxiety of CD157 Mutants in a Mouse Model of Autism Spectrum Disorder,” Scientific Reports, in press, 2020
  • Pirinen, E., Auranen, M., Khan, N., Brilhante, V., Urho, N., Pessia, A., Hakkarainen, A., Kuula, J., Heinonen, U., Schmidt, M.S., Haimilahti, K., Piirilä, P., Lundbom, N., Taskinen, M.R., Brenner, C., Velagapudi, V., Pietiläinen, K., Suomalainen, A., “Niacin Improves Systemic NAD+and Performance in Mitochondrial Myopathy,” Cell Metabolism, in press, 2020,
  • Levine, D.C., Hong, H., Ramsey, K.M., Affinati, A.H., Schmidt, M.S., Cedernaes, J., Omura, C., Lee, C., Brenner, C., Peek, C.B. & Bass, J., “NAD Controls Circadian Reprogramming Through PER2 Nuclear Translocation,” Molecular Cell, in press, 2020,

Jacintha Thomas featured on UIHC “The Loop”

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Jacintha Thomas, a Research Assistant in Dr. Lori Wallrath’s lab, was featured in the May 7th UIHC publication called “The Loop”. During the COVID-19 shut down, Jacintha divides her time between the adjacent laboratories of Lori Wallrath and Arlene Drack (Ophthamology and Visual Sciences). Jacintha has been instrumental in maintaining valuable mice and fruit fly stocks used for studies of human disease.


The Loop article can be found here.


Thanks Jacintha!

Brian Krueger at forefront of COVID-19 DNA testing

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Brian Krueger, Associate Vice President, Technical Director, R&D, LabCorp and a 2009 PhD graduate of the Department of Biochemistry, has been at the forefront of COVID-19 DNA testing. On January 12, 2020, China published the first DNA sequence of the coronavirus genome from patients with COVID-19. By March 16, 2020, in unprecedented record time, Dr. Krueger and his co-workers developed the first FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) approval for a clinical DNA diagnostic test. On April 21, 2020, they were the first to receive EUA approval for the first at-home test kit based on nasal swabbing. We are proud that a Biochemistry alumnus is helping to keep our country safe.

Thank you Dr. Krueger!