News

Gokhale selected for a Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award. Congratulations to Nandan Gokhale, graduate student in Stacy Horner’s lab, on being selected for a Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award to recognize outstanding achievement in Graduate Studies.

Nandan’s thesis work focuses on understanding RNA regulatory controls of viral infection. Specifically, he studies how the RNA modification N6-methyladenosine (m6A) on viral and host RNAs regulates infection by viruses in the Flaviviridae family. Nandan found that m6A on the hepatitis C virus RNA genome negatively regulates viral particle production by facilitating a competition between the viral capsid protein and cellular m6A “reader” proteins for viral RNA packaging into virions (Gokhale et al., 2016). This work described a new regulatory mechanism of viral infection, and reveals that m6A acts on viral RNAs to regulate distinct stages of their life cycles. Nandan has also identified infection-induced changes in the cellular m6A-epitranscriptome which indicate that m6A exerts transcript-specific effects to influence the fate of cellular mRNAs and ultimately affect viral infection (Gokhale, McIntyre et al., 2019). Together, these exciting findings are illuminating how m6A dynamically regulates the host response to RNA virus infection and why it matters.

Walsh awarded NIH F31. Stephen Walsh, a PhD candidate in the Coers lab, has just been awarded an NIAID Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31). This award will support his research on the sexually transmitted pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis and its interactions with the human innate immune system.

 

Clare Smith HeadshotMatt ScaglioneSmith and Scaglione selected to be a Whitehead Scholars for the next five years. Clare Smith and Matt Scaglione, Assistant Professors in MGM, have been selected to be a Whitehead Scholars for the next five years. The Whitehead family established a fund at Duke to support new assistant professors and their research.

The Smith Lab will pursue the mechanisms b which genetic variation in the host alters the immune pressures experienced by pathogens, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. By understanding how these interactions drive specific arms of immunity, new host-pathogen paired vaccines and therapeutics can be rationally designed.

The Scaglione Lab research focus “Proteopathies are a class of at least 71 diseases characterized by the accumulation of protein aggregates.  Protein aggregates are caused by an imbalance in protein homeostasis resulting in the accumulation of misfolded proteins.  One major question in biomedical research is:  How do cells recognize and deal with misfolded proteins? To investigate this laboratories utilize a wide array of model organisms to interrogate cellular pathways that handle misfolded proteins.  Research in our lab focuses on utilizing the model organism Dictyostelium discoideum to investigate cellular responses to neurotoxic proteins.  We have chosen to utilize  Dictyostelium  as a model organism because we realized that Dictyostelium normally expresses proteins with long polyglutamine tracts that cause one class of proteopathy.  Our lab and others have shown that Dictyostelium have an extraordinary ability to resist aggregation of a polyglutamine expanded protein know to aggregate in other model organisms.  Our lab went on to identify a novel type of molecular chaperone that imparts Dictyostelium resistance to polyglutamine aggregation.  In the future we hope to leverage our findings in Dictyostelium to develop novel therapies to treat neurodegenerative diseases”.

Lawrence David, Assistant Professor in MGM, was presented with an unusual project by his advisor when he was a student: to study his own feces for a full year. By accepting this challenge, Lawrence went on a journey of scientific and personal discovery, see below:

Lickwar receives School of Medicine Research Staff Appreciation Award. Dr. Colin Lickwar, a Research Scientist in the laboratory of Dr. John Rawls, has received the School of Medicine Research Staff Appreciation Award. Sponsored by the Dean and Research Vice Deans, this award recognizes recognize staff members who provide exemplary support in the conduct of research. Applying his expertise in genome science and bioinformatics, Colin conducts primary research into the transcriptional mechanisms underlying host-microbe symbiosis and other aspects of intestinal physiology. His recent paper in PLoS Biology revealed a transcriptional regulatory network in intestinal epithelial cells that has been conserved over the last 420 million years of vertebrate evolution. He also contributes significantly to lab management, to mentoring of trainees, and to supporting many other research projects and collaborations in the Rawls lab.

 

Gokhale nominee for Weintraub award. Congratulations to Nandan Gokhakle on being selected as MGM’s nominee for the Weintraub award, this award recognizes outstanding achievement during graduate studies in the biological sciences.

Nandan’s thesis work focuses on understanding RNA regulatory controls of viral infection. Specifically, he studies how the RNA modification N6-methyladenosine (m6A) on viral and host RNAs regulates infection by viruses in the Flaviviridae family. Nandan found that m6A on the hepatitis C virus RNA genome negatively regulates viral particle production by facilitating a competition between the viral capsid protein and cellular m6A “reader” proteins for viral RNA packaging into virions (Gokhale et al., 2016). This work described a new regulatory mechanism of viral infection, and reveals that m6A acts on viral RNAs to regulate distinct stages of their life cycles. Nandan has also identified infection-induced changes in the cellular m6A-epitranscriptome which indicate that m6A exerts transcript-specific effects to influence the fate of cellular mRNAs and ultimately affect viral infection (Gokhale, McIntyre et al., 2019). Together, these exciting findings are illuminating how m6A dynamically regulates the host response to RNA virus infection and why it matters.

Claire Awarded K99/R00. Congratulations to Claire De March, postdoc in Hiro Matsunami lab, on her K99/R00 application being recommended for funding by the NIH. Claire’s research focuses on the understanding of molecular mechanisms related to the perception of odors. Since her thesis, she has mastered the protein reconstruction tools by homology modeling and molecular dynamics simulations to identify a uniform activation mechanism, common to all mammalian odorant receptors. She is particularly interested in investigating the role of conserved amino acid patterns in odorant receptors and how that defines their identity within the GPCR family. Claire tests the mechanistic hypotheses emitted by her theoretical models using in vitro approaches that was learned in her post-doctorate laboratory at Duke University in the lab of Pr. Hiroaki Matsunami. She uses the synergistic aspect of the theoretical and experimental approaches to obtain a reliable study model that allows her to answer major mechanistic questions related to the perception of odors. Claire’s postdoctoral training allied with her previous expertise gives Claire an understanding of olfaction from an atomic level odorant molecules recognition to the perception of an odor and the emotion it triggers.

Sue Jinks-Robertson

Congratulations Sue Jinks-Robertson on being nominated as the Blue Devil of the Week. Sue was nominated by her colleagues for having an intriguing job and going above and beyond to make a difference at Duke. To read more, click here.

 

 

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