Phil Newmark Featured in HHMI Bulletin
Associate Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Investigator Phil Newmark is featured in "Master of Regeneration," an article in the August 2010 HHMI Bulletin.
Steven Blanke finds link between stomach-cancer bug and cancer-promoting factor
Microbiology professor Steven Blanke has found that a factor produced by the bacterium H. pylori directly activates an enzyme in host cells that has been associated with several types of cancer, including gastric cancer.
Sligar Published in Journal of Cell Biology
Professor of Biochemistry Stephen Sligar and colleagues have successfully recreated integrin activation in vitro, resolving long-standing uncertainties about the cellular mechanisms behind the process. Their findings, "Recreation of the terminal events in physiological integrin activation," are published and spot-lighted in the January 4th issue of the journal of Cell Biology.
Milan Bagchi Appointed University Scholar
On Monday, February 15th, Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology Milan Bagchi was appointed a university scholar by the chancellor.
The University Scholars Program was initiated to honor outstanding faculty. The program targets faculty in mid career who are associate professors or who have held the rank of full professor for no more than four years. Awards of $10,000 per year may be used at the faculty member's discretion to enhance their scholarly work.
Illinois Partners in New NSF Center to Investigate Creation of Biological Machines
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $25 million to establish the Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS) Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Alumni Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Affiliate Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology Martha Gillette will serve as Co-Director of Research for Biology. Other MCB faculty involved include Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology Fei Wang, and Affiliate Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology Peter Wang.
William Metcalf Elected to American Academy of Microbiology
Professor of Microbiology William Metcalf has been elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology. Academy Fellows are elected annually through a selective peer-review process, based on scientific achievement and original contributions to advanced microbiology.
Songbird genome sings of the communicating brain
The Australian zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata, weighs less than half an ounce, mates for life and, unlike most vocalizing animals, learns its songs from its elders. A new analysis of its genome, the first of a songbird, is providing tantalizing clues to the mechanisms and evolution of vocal communication.
“There is a functional developmental parallel between the way a bird learns to sing and a human learns to speak,” said David Clayton, a professor of neuroscience and cell and developmental biology at the University of Illinois who led the group that proposed and organized the genome sequencing effort.
Martha Gillette And Gene Robinson featured in new videos
Alumni Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Affiliate Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology Martha Gillette is featured in a new online video entitled "Neurosciences: The Clock."
University neuroscience researchers are uncovering how biological timing systems, like circadian clocks, control brain functions. This research provides insights about synchronization that can positively effect people’s health and well being.
You may stream the video online.
Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology Gene Robinson appears in a video entitled "Neurosciences: Bees ... and Brains."
University researchers are studying the naturally occurring behavioral plasticity of honey bees and looking for applications related to human behavior. What is learned from bees today may have far reaching applications for humans who are retiring, changing careers or pursuing new jobs and opportunities.
You may stream the video online.
MCB Undergrad Grant Reed Given Patricia Askew Leadership Award
Grant Reed, a graduating senior in MCB, was awarded the Patricia Askew Leadership Award this year. The award is one of several sources of recognition for his work to establish an important student organization: the Illinois Medical Screening Society (IMSS). IMSS offers free health screening to the under-served in our community.
The Patricia Askew Award is presented annually to an undergraduate student who has demonstrated exceptional leadership on campus, and who has been instrumental in creating or enhancing a registered student organization. This will be the third year this award is presented and recognition includes a $1,000 monetary award.
MIP Professors find potential for new treatment of Alzheimer's disease
Professors of Molecular and Integrative Biology Yang (Kevin) Xiang, Charles Cox and their colleagues found a potential new drug target for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists have known for decades that a protein fragment called amyloid-beta is a key to the riddle of Alzheimer’s disease. When amyloid-beta binds to a neuron, the AMPA receptor opens a channel that lets calcium or sodium ions into the cell.
For the new study, the researchers focused on the beta-2 adrenergic receptor, a protein that – like the AMPA receptor – resides in the cell membrane.
Emad Tajkhorshid recognized as exceptional by Campus Committee on Promotion and Tenure
Of the approximately 100 cases that the Campus Committee on Promotion and Tenure reviewed this year, Associate Professor of Biochemistry Emad Tajkhorshid's dossier was one of just four recognized as exceptional in terms of quality of work and overall achievement.
There are two of these awards given to those who have just received tenure and were promoted to the rank of associate professor. The other two awards are targeted to those who were just promoted to the professor rank. This impressive acknowledgment carries a $3000 award to support scholarly activities.
July 26, 2010
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Mizzen Lab Findings Published in Journal of Cell Biology
Working in the lab of Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology Craig Mizzen, Yupeng Zheng, a graduate student in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, was the lead author of "Histone H1 phosphorylation is associated with transcription by RNA polymerases I and II," a paper published by the highly rated Journal of Cell Biology (189:3). Jennifer Schultz-Norton — a post-doctoral worker in the lab of Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology Ann Nardulli — is another of the authors cited.
According to Professor Mizzen, "The paper describes our discovery that specific sites on histone H1 proteins are phosphorylated in chromatin undergoing transcription by RNA polymerases I and II. The lead author is a grad student from my lab, and we collaborated with three other labs (two from the University of Illinois, one from National Cancer Institute) to do the work."
Ann Nardulli Meets with Lawmakers in Washington D.C.
Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology Ann Nardulli visited Capitol Hill, along with other members of the Endocrine Society, as part of an envoy to present the 2009 Endocrine Society Congressional Leadership Award, and to advocate for increased funding for biomedical research.
John Gerlt receives grant to study enzyme functions
A team of researchers led by University of Illinois biochemistry professor John A. Gerlt has received a five-year, $33.9 million grant from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences to study the functions of unknown enzymes.
The “glue grant” – so-called because it brings together multidisciplinary groups of investigators – was awarded to provide resources to tackle the “complex problems that are of central importance to biomedical science but are beyond the means of any one research group,” according to the NIGMS.
Gerlt’s team will develop a strategy for discovering the functions of unknown, or uncharacterized, enzymes discovered in genome-sequencing projects.
Rhanor Gillette published in Journal of Neurophysiology
Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience Rhanor Gillette and colleagues have published a paper in the Journal of Neurophysiology: "Nitric oxide potentiates cAMP-gated cation current by intracellular acidification in feeding neurons of Pleurobranchaea."
According to Professor Gillette, in the paper "we show that in neurons of the mollusc Pleurobranchaea, the intracellular messenger nitric oxide causes marked intracellular acidification. This is a novel mechanism of NO effect, hitherto undescribed. We show that it has the physiologically significant effect of potentiating a pH-sensitive cAMP-gated cation current that we previously described in the neurons of Pleurobranchaea's feeding motor network. Thus, this mechanism may be important in this system in setting the excitation level of the feeding motor network and thereby influencing the animal's appetitive state.
Benita Katzenellebogen Helps Discover How Estrogen Can Prevent Vascular Disease Without Increasing Cancer Risk
Swanlund Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and Cell and Developmental Biology Benita Katzenellebogen contributed to a study led by University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center that pinpointed a set of biological mechanisms through which estrogen confers its beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, independent of the hormone's actions on cancer.
Histone H1 regulates gene activity throughout the cell cycle
A team of researchers, including Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology Craig Mizzen and Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology Ann Nardulli, has published a study in the Journal of Cell Biology entitled "Histone H1 phosphorylation is associated with transcription by RNA polymerases I and II."
The researchers found that the protein histone H1, known for its role in helping to compress DNA stored in the nucleus, also takes part in the formation of ribosomes, the cellular workbenches on which all proteins are made.
Cancer-causing bacterium targets tumor-suppressor protein
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Lin-Feng Chen and colleagues have discovered a mechanism by which Helicobacter pylori, the only known cancer-causing bacterium, disables a tumor suppressor protein in host cells.
The new study in the journal Oncogene, "Helicobacter pylori CagA targets gastric tumor suppressor RUNX3 for proteasome-mediated degradation," reports the discovery of a previously unknown mechanism linking H. pylori infection and stomach cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.
Supriya Prasanth published in PNAS
Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology Supriya Prasanth is lead and co-corresponding author of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "Human origin recognition complex is essential for HP1 binding to chromatin and heterochromatin organization." The second author is graduate student Zhen Shen.
NIGMS Announces $22.5 Million Grant for Study of Membrane Proteins
One of the largest ever collaborations to understand the structure and dynamic function of cellular membrane proteins was launched today with a 5-year, $22.5 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The funding, known as a "glue grant," unites nearly 30 scientists from 14 institutions in 4 different countries into an effort called the Membrane Protein Structural Dynamics Consortium.
"We have been able to put together almost a dream team of people currently involved in this type of research," said University of Chicago Medical Center Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Eduardo Perozo, the leader of the team. "There has been nothing like this project before."
The Membrane Protein Structural Dynamics Consortium includes Physics Professor Klaus Schulten; Associate Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, Biophysics, and Neuroscience Claudio Grosman; and Associate Professor of Biochemistry, and Biophysics and Computational Biology Emad Tajkhorshid.
A more comprehensive understanding of membrane protein dynamics will enable the development of better drugs for diseases involving defective channels and transporters, such as forms of heart disease, diabetes, and neurological and hormonal disorders. A more sophisticated knowledge of how membrane proteins allow molecules into and out of cells can help improve drug design and delivery for an even wider range of diseases.
Kannanganattu Prasanth Published in The Embo Journal
Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology Prasanth Kannanganattu is co-lead author on "A long nuclear-retained non-coding RNA regulates synaptogenesis by modulating gene expression," now appearing in advance online publication in The Embo Journal, the journal of the European Molecular Biology Organization. Post-doc Vidisha Tripathi is third author. The paper was selected as an Advance Online Publication (AOP) highlight.
Cellular Traffic Jams: Maria Spies in LAS News
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist Maria Spies appears in LAS News, a publication of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The article uses a unique metaphor to unravel the complexities of DNA repair.
Welcoming Rachel Smith-Bolton
Rachel Smith-Bolton has accepted a faculty position with the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. Professor Smith-Bolton comes to Urbana from the University of California at Berkeley.
Rachel Smith-Bolton writes:
"I received my undergraduate degree from Harvard University where I worked in Richard Losick's lab on asymmetric cell division in Bacillus subtilis. I then received my Ph.D. from Stanford University where I conducted my thesis research in Mike Simon's lab on Receptor Tyrosine Kinase signaling during Drosophila development. During my time as a postdoctoral fellow in the Hariharan lab I have developed a genetic method to induce tissue damage in developing Drosophila wings in order to identify the genes and mechanisms that regulate tissue regeneration." Posted September 10, 2010
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$8 Million NIH Grant To Study Effects of Botanical Estrogens
Swanlund Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and Cell and Developmental Biology Benita Katzenellenbogen is among three University of Illinois faculty involved in the Botanical Research Center, funded by a new $8 million NIH grant.
Katzenellenbogen will lead a study on effects of botanical estrogens on gene activation and their interaction with estrogen receptors and regulatory proteins.
Colin Wraight and Stephen Sligar Contribute to Self-Repairing Solar Cells
Professors of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Computational Biology Colin Wraight and Stephen Sligar are involved with a team of researchers who have created solar cells that use proteins from the cellular machinery of plants to repair themselves.
The new design, while it does not yet yield as much power as traditional solar cells, has the potential to lead to longer-lasting solar cells.
“It’s a manmade version of what nature does,” says nanocomposite expert Jaime Grunlan of Texas A&M University in College Station. “This really looks like ground-breaking seminal work; I’ve never seen anything remotely like it.”
Mayo-Illinois Strategic Alliance for Technology-Based Health Care
Associate Professor of Microbiology Brenda Wilson is co-leader in a project in which the University of Illinois joins forces with the Mayo Clinic and the J. Craig Venter Institute.
Using results from the Human Microbiome Project―an NIH program to catalog the microbes within the human body―The Mayo-Illinois Strategic Alliance for Technology-Based Health Care is exploring bacteria associated with urogenital infections, with a special interest in the link between vaginal infection and pre-term birth.
Prasanth Kannanganattu published in Molecular Cell
Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology Kannanganattu Prasanth is corresponding author of "The Nuclear-Retained Noncoding RNA MALAT1 Regulates Alternative Splicing by Modulating SR Splicing Factor Phosphorylation," published in Molecular Cell. Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology Supriya Prasanth and Vidisha Tripathi are also contributors to the paper, which is recommended by Faculty of 1000 Biology.
Novel Protein Crucial for Cellular Proliferation Discovered
Accurate duplication of genetic material and the faithful segregation of chromosomes are critical for cell survival. The initiation of DNA replication is linked both to cell cycle progression and chromatin organization. In plants, animals and other “eukaryotes,” the assembly of a multi-protein complex called pre-replicative complex (preRC) is the first step in the initiation of DNA replication. As the name implies, origin recognition complex (ORC) proteins bind to origins of DNA replication. Subsequently, other components of preRC are assembled at these sites. In addition to its role in DNA replication, ORC is also involved in gene silencing and organization of the tightly packed DNA, called heterochromatin. How ORC is brought to the DNA in human cells had previously remained a mystery.
Researchers at the University of Illinois, led by Professor Supriya Prasanth from the department of cell and developmental biology, have identified a novel protein that is highly conserved in higher eukaryotes. They have shown that in human cells, this protein (once known as LRWD1 but renamed ORCA, for “ORC-associated” protein) associates with ORC and shows similar cell cycle dynamics to ORC. Along with ORC, this protein binds to heterochromatic structures, including centromeres and telomeres, which are important to cell division and chromosome maintenance.
The researchers further demonstrated that ORCA efficiently recruits ORC to chromatin, the DNA and proteins that make up the chromosome. Depletion of ORCA in human primary cells as well as in embryonic stem cells results in the loss of ORC binding to chromatin and subsequent arrest of cells in a vital phase of the cell cycle. Loss of ORCA results in defects in cellular proliferation, suggesting that a fine-tuned balance in the levels of ORCA is maintained in a normal cell. These results suggest that a novel protein, ORCA, is critical for initiation of DNA replication and heterochromatin organization in mammalian cells.
This work appears in the October 8, 2010 issue of the journal Molecular Cell.
“The discovery of this new protein is going to be revolutionary in the field of replication and cell cycle,” Prasanth said. “We all know that diseases like cancer are caused by uncontrolled proliferation of cells, and our data demonstrates that ORCA controls proliferation of cells. This work is going to have important implications in cancer biology.”
The study was spearheaded by Zhen Shen, a graduate student, with assistance from post-doctoral fellows Kizhakke M. Sathyan and Arindam Chakraborty. Other Illinois researchers on the study include Kannanganattu Prasanth, a professor in the department of cell and developmental biology; his graduate student Ruiping Zheng; Brian Freeman, a professor in the department of cell and developmental biology; Fei Wang, a professor in cell and developmental biology; and his graduate student Yejie Geng. The funding for this study was provided by National Science Foundation, and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, through a Special Fellow Award granted to Supriya Prasanth.
Philip Newmark Appearing in PLoS Biology
A new study of peptide hormones in the brain of the planarian flatworm, led by Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Philip Newmark, promises to be useful in battling parasitic disease.
The planarian flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea is renowned for its ability to regenerate a complete organism from a fragment of itself. It is also related to parasitic flatworms responsible for tropical diseases.
The study isolated a neuropeptide that plays an important role in the planarian flatworm's reproductive system, suggesting an approach to treating infection by harmful parasitic flatworms.
Stephen Sligar Published in Nanotechnology
Director of the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology, I.C. Gunsalus Professor of Biochemistry, and Professor of Biophysics and Computational Biology Stephen Sligar is corresponding author on "Nanomechanical detection of cholera toxin using microcantilevers functionalized with ganglioside nanodiscs," appearing in Nanotechnology.
Integrated biochemical and mechanical signals regulate multifaceted human embryonic stem cell functions
Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology Fei Wang is corresponding author on "Integrated biochemical and mechanical signals regulate multifaceted human embryonic stem cell functions," appearing in the Journal of Cell Biology.
The article is featured in the "In Focus" section of JCB.
Satish Nair Published in PNAS
Associate Professor of Biochemistry Satish Nair and Biochemistry Affiliate Wilfred van der Donk are corresponding authors on "Characterization and structure of DhpI, a phosphonate O-methyltransferase involved in dehydrophos biosynthesis," appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Former Biochemistry graduate student Brian Bae also contributed to the research.
According to Professor and Head of Biochemistry Susan Martinis, the study "reports a beautiful interdisciplinary investigation that combines X-ray crystallography and biochemistry to identify the substrate scope of an important enzyme in a phosphonate biosynthetic pathway that has implications for antibiotic development."
Glimpsing the Critical Intermediate in Cytochrome P450 Oxidations
"Glimpsing the Critical Intermediate in Cytochrome P450 Oxidations," by Director of the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and I.C. Gunsalus Professor of Biochemistry Stephen Sligar, is published in the November 12 issue of Science.
Linda Birnbaum and Keith Westcott Honored by LAS with Top Alumni Awards
Linda Birnbaum and Keith Westcott are two of the four winners of the top alumni awards from the University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2010.
According to LAS News: "Linda Birnbaum, a Microbiology alum, is the first woman and first toxicologist to lead the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Since the 1970s, she has tackled the most serious toxicology issues of our time, from dioxins and PCBs to asbestos. Birnbaum split much of her career between the NIEHS and EPA and is currently leading an effort to assess the health risks posed by the 2010 Gulf oil spill....
Keith Westcott, a Biochemistry alumnus, was at Amgen when it burst onto the scene in the 1980s, sparking the biotechnology revolution. He has brought this industrial know-how back to U of I, creating fellowships for graduate students in biochemistry. He also comes back to campus regularly to give talks, help with U of I Foundation activities, and teach a six-week course about pharmaceutical biotechnology from an industrial perspective."
Carl Woese Co-Authors a Paper in Annual Reviews of Condensed Matter Physics
Professor of Biochemistry and Crafoord Prize Recipient Carl Woese is co-author of a paper to appear in Annual Reviews of Condensed Matter Physics.
Woese, and co-author Nigel Goldenfeld, professor of physics, suggest that biologists need to think about their field as more closely related to condensed matter physics than chemistry.
New Textbook Published by Three MCB Faculty
American Society for Microbiology Press has just published Bacterial Pathogenesis: a Molecular Approach, 3rd Edition, by Associate Professor of Microbiology Brenda A. Wilson, Professor of Microbiology and G. William Arends Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Abigail A. Salyers, Dixie D. Whitt, and Malcolm E. Winkler.