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IPiB News

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    John Ralph, biochemistry professor and researcher with the Wisconsin Energy Institute (WEI), has been named to Clarivate Analytics’ 2017 list of “Highly Cited Researchers.”

    Ralph’s research areas include biofuels and other bioproducts, as well as plant genetics and breeding. His research group is recognized for their work with lignin, the polymer that strengthens plant cell walls.

    Lignin often makes it difficult to break down woody plants for biofuels, paper, and other products. Ralph’s team works to analyze lignin and redesign it to be more readily degraded. He has been recognized with this honor every year for the last 10 years.

    “As nice as this honor is, and to be appreciated in such prestigious company, this impact is due to a fantastic group in the lab here,” Ralph says. “It’s also due to our fortunate affiliation with Biochemistry and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center/WEI, and in no small measure to wonderful collaborators world-wide.”

    To read more about Ralph and the highly cited list, see the link below. 

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-ralph-highly-cited-2017-12-06

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    Using a molecule designed to overcome a roadblock formed by a common type of genetic flaw, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have made progress towards novel molecular treatments for Friedreich’s ataxia — a rare but fatal disorder — in the laboratory dish and in animals.

    Friedreich’s, like at least 40 other genetic diseases, is caused by stretches of repetitive DNA that prevent protein from forming correctly.

    The repeats can contain hundreds of identical, short sequences of DNA (such as GAAGAAGAAGAA …). In some diseases, including Friedreich’s, the repeats become roadblocks to cellular machines that decode the gene and start making the protein that the cell needs. In other diseases, such as the neurological condition Huntington’s, the repeats can result in excess protein, which itself can become toxic.

    In research reported this week in the journal ScienceAseem Ansari, a professor of biochemistry and genomics at UW–Madison, and colleagues showed that their “molecular prosthesis” can help cellular machinery overcome the blockade posed by the repeats in Friedreich’s ataxia.

    Read more about this research in the press release at the link below. 

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-ansari-ataxia-2017-11-30

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    Researchers in the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Biochemistry have discovered that a cellular pump known to move drugs like antibiotics out of E. coli bacteria has the potential to bring them in as well, opening new lines of research into combating the bacteria.

    The discovery could rewrite almost 50 years of thinking about how these types of transporters function in the cell.

    Cells must bring in and remove different materials to survive. To accomplish this, they utilize different transporter proteins in their cell membranes, most of which are powered by what is called the proton motive force. The proton motive force is directed toward the inside of the cell in bacteria, which means that protons naturally want to move in to the cell from the outside and do so if there is a pathway for them. These transporters allow the measured movement of protons into the cell — and in exchange for protons moving in, drug molecules get expelled.

    It was long thought that this coupled exchange of protons (in) and drugs (out) by the transporter was very strict. However, in a study published today (Nov. 7, 2017) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, UW–Madison biochemistry professor Katherine Henzler-Wildman and collaborators at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that for E. coli’s small multidrug resistance transporter, called EmrE, proton and drug movements are not as strictly coupled. This transporter can actually also move drugs and protons across the membrane in the same direction, as well as the opposite direction — introducing the option of moving molecules both into or out of the cell.

    Read more about this research at the press release below. 

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-transporter-pumping-antibiotics-2017-11-07

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    Matthew Merrins, assistant professor, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism — and affiliate of the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry and the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB) — has been selected for the Veterans Administration (VA) Non-Clinician Intramural Program.

    This program recruits highly qualified scientists to conduct research to advance the health of Veterans. 

    Acceptance is competitive and enables program members to apply for VA research funding. The program is open only to non-clinician investigators with doctoral (PhD or equivalent) degrees. 

    Read more about his research at his lab's page below. 

    URL: https://ipib.wisc.edu/fac_people_faculty_profile.php?id=merrins&view=intro

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    The Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB) welcomes Yong Wang as a new affiliate faculty member. His primary appointment is in the Department of Medicine but he is affiliated with the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, one of the two programs that make up IPiB.

    Wang completed his Ph.D. at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and postdoctoral studies at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. His research interests include bioinformatics and cancer biology.

    His long terms goals for his laboratory are to develop single-cell DNA/RNA sequencing technology and algorithms to investigate how tumors develop dynamically and spatially, from precancerous lesions to malignant cancer then to metastasis.

    To read more about Wang and his work, see his research profile at the link below. 

    URL: https://ipib.wisc.edu/fac_people_faculty_profile.php?id=ywang2268&view=intro

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    For biochemistry Ph.D. alumnus Frederick Porter, graduate school was a start to a second phase in his career. After beginning a career in the pharmaceutical industry, he came to the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Biochemistry in his thirties to study virology under biochemistry professor Ann Palmenberg. After graduating in 2008 and completing a postdoc, his career took him out of the basic science lab and into vaccine product development.

    After graduating from the department, Fred spent eight years in the vaccine industry where he held multiple roles leading the development of vaccines against viral diseases such as influenza, HIV, and respiratory syncytial virus. In June 2016, he moved back into an academic role to become the senior director of product development at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute.

    “As the lead of product development here at the institute, I was recruited to start up an organization that will translate scientific ideas into products,” Porter explains. “I work as part of a scientific team to find the best vaccine candidates to test in pre-clinical animal models and clinical trials, all while navigating the technical and regulatory hurdles of this type of work.” 

    To read more about Porter's position and experience in IPiB, see the link below. 

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-graduate-alum-vaccine-development-2017-21-17

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    It’s square one. It’s step one. It puts the “basic” in basic science. How ever you describe it, understanding protein structure and function through what’s called X-ray crystallography is an important approach in many areas of biochemistry, including drug design. And it’s a technique many researchers in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison specialize in.

    A computer repairperson can’t fix or improve a computer without knowing anything about the parts, and a scientist can’t work with a protein properly without knowledge of its basic structure first. If a mutation in a protein causes disease, knowing where the mutation is located — and its effects there — could help find a way to fight the disease. Oftentimes, structure holds the key.

    The process required to determine, or “solve,” the structure of a protein through X-ray crystallography has changed rapidly, like many scientific techniques. It’s gone from long and complex to an approachable technique that is used by many researchers.

    In crystallography, the protein of interest has to be purified and coaxed into crystallizing. Next the crystal is exposed to X-rays, which are scattered by the crystal, and data are collected on these scattered X-rays. Mathematical equations and computer programs take it from there, helping the researcher generate a three-dimensional image of the protein. This process once took decades. As science advanced it began to take five years, then one, and today, if all goes well, just a matter of weeks.

    “Our main goal is to be able to see what a protein or other molecule looks like in three dimensions,” says Hazel Holden, a professor in the UW–Madison Department of Biochemistry. “In the case of enzymes, we want to understand how they catalyze their reactions, which can only be fully understood by a three-dimensional picture.”

    To read the rest of this feature story, see the link below. 

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-biochemistry-crystallography-2017-09-14

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    Think of the cellular machine known as the spliceosome as being like a car. For a car to function properly, its parts have to be assembled in a particular order. Additionally, many of the car’s parts have to also be put together before they can be put in the car, making up an increasingly complex system of assembly that must be tightly regulated to ensure it is done correctly.

    In the case of the spliceosome, errors don’t result in recalls, but instead in a lack of the proteins humans need to survive or stay healthy. The spliceosome is responsible for taking RNA — which gets its information from our DNA — and cutting, or splicing, out the sections needed to make proteins. This splicing action gave the cellular machine its name.

    The assembly kit for the spliceosome comes in the form of six subunits, and scientists in the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Biochemistry carefully study how these subunits form and interact. In a Nature Communications paper published Sept. 8 they reveal how one of the most crucial subunits is put together. 

    The researchers say understanding the normal function and assembly of the spliceosome is the first step in understanding diseases cause by errors in the spliceosome, such as a rare genetic disease that causes skin and bone problems. Their findings also provide interesting insights into the evolutionary history of organisms as diverse as yeast and humans.

    Read more about this research at the story below. 

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-butcher-spliceosome-assembly-2017-09-08

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    Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB) graduate student Sébastien Ortiz recently earned a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship. He is one of just 39 other students across the United States to receive the award to support diversity in science.

    “I feel incredibly lucky and surprised to have received this award,” Ortiz says. “The funding will provide for my stipend, tuition, and other expenses and will be very helpful for my graduate career.” 

    The fellowship also has benefits for the student’s mentor. Ortiz is in the lab of biomolecular chemistry professor Christina Hull. IPiB is the joint graduate program of the Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry. Hull will get to participate in online and in-person training to become a better mentor for underrepresented students.

    The Hull Lab studies Cryptococcus, a fungal pathogen that is responsible for thousands of deaths per year from meningitis, particularly in people with weak immune systems like those with HIV/AIDS. The lab studies the spores of the fungus, which are dormant and stress resistant, and hence hard to kill. They also investigate how the spores differentiate into the yeast form, which is when they can cause disease. 

    They’ve looked for compounds that can prevent the spores from becoming yeasts or stop the growth of the yeasts and have found a few compounds that can accomplish this. Ortiz’s research focuses on using microfluidics to study the process of how the spores become yeasts and are affected by the compounds.

    Beyond research, he believes his fellowship will give him more opportunities to get other underrepresented groups involved in science.

    “I grew up in Washington, D.C. and did a lot of outreach with minority students there to encourage them to pursue science,” he says. “I think that a lot of the time they don’t receive the encouragement they need or have too many other obligations that they don’t get the exposure they need to want to pursue a career in science. I plan to continue doing outreach and I think this fellowship will help me do that.” 

    To read more about this fellowship, see the HHMI press release below. 

    URL: https://www.hhmi.org/news/hhmi-awards-39-gilliam-fellowships-support-diversity-science?utm_content=buffer39788&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&ut

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    Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have developed a new measurement for the volume and activity of beta cells, the source of the sugar-regulating hormone insulin.

    In a study published in the August edition of the journal Diabetes, Weibo Cai and colleagues used a PET scanner to detect minute levels of a radioactive chemical in the mouse pancreas. Cai, the senior author of the study and an associate professor of radiology, says that unlike previous methods for measuring the quantity of beta cells, the new test also measures how actively these cells are making insulin. IPiB faculty member Matthew Merrins was an author on the paper. 

    To read more about this research, see the press release at the link below. 

    URL: http://news.wisc.edu/new-measure-of-insulin-making-cells-could-gauge-diabetes-progression-treatment/

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    Biochemistry assistant professor Ophelia Venturelli recently received funding for her proposal to the Army Research Office Young Investigator Program. Titled “Large-scale mapping and modeling of human gut microbiota stability and activity,” her research project seeks to develop new technologies to study microbiomes.

    The United States Army Research Office is part of the Army Research Laboratory, overseen by the Department of Defense. Microbiomes are the collection of microbes — bacteria, viruses, fungi, and more — in a given environment. The human gut microbiome is a popular study area because it relates to human health. Other researchers study the microbiome of plants, animals, or the soil. Microbiomes carry out interesting functions like making antibiotics to attack each other or producing compounds that can be used as biofuel so they are of great interest to biochemists.

    The Young Investigator Program’s goal is to support the research of young academic faculty members, particularly those who have had their Ph.D. for less than five years. The three-year award provides $120,000 each year.

    Read more about this project and award at the link below. 

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-venturelli-army-research-funding-biochemistry-2017-03-17

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    Ann Palmenberg and Rob Kalejta heard complaints at one too many virology conferences about the perceived lack of women among the invited and keynote speakers. So, they did what all good scientists do: They tracked down the data.

    In their recent study, published in the Journal of Virology, the University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers examined 35 years worth of invited speaker rosters from four prominent virology meetings, including the American Society for Virology, which is hosting its annual meeting in Madison, Wisconsin starting June 24, 2017.  They found that men were overwhelmingly represented. For example, between 1982 and 2017, 77 percent of the speakers at ASV’s annual meetings were male.

    “We can no longer wonder if this is a problem,” says Kalejta, professor of oncology and molecular virology. “The answer is yes and it’s happening year after year.”

    To read more about this research, see the press release at the link below. 

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-palmenberg-virology-conference-gender-disparity-2017-06-26

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    Out of a wide range of thirteen projects funded by the UW­–Madison Microbiome Initiative, five of them are led or in collaboration with Integrated Program in Biochemistry faculty members. The funding was announced June 20, 2017. 

    Biochemistry assistant professor Ophelia Venturelli is the principal investigator for Developing Model-Guided Frameworks to Dissect Butyrate Production in the Human Gut Microbiota, and biomolecular chemistry professor John Denu is leading a project titled Gut Microbial Metabolism and Host Epigenetic States.

    The initiative, which focuses on the microorganisms living in specific environments such as the human body, is part of a series of strategic initiatives launched by the UW–Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education. It aims to seed research likely to galvanize the university’s research community and to position UW–Madison faculty to be more competitive when applying for federal funding in specific research areas.

    The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and the Graduate School also provided support for the initiative. IPiB is the world-class joint graduate program of the Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry. 

    Other projects faculty are listed on include:

    Read more about this initiative at the press release below. 

    URL: http://news.wisc.edu/new-campus-initiative-targets-microbiome-research/

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    The Department of Biomolecular Chemistry is pleased to announce that Heidi Dvinge will be joining the department this fall as an assistant professor. By extension, Dvinge will be a faculty member for the Integrated Program in Biochemistry

    Dvinge's research focuses on the role of RNA splicing and dysregulation in cancer. By computationally analyzing transcriptomes from cancer patients and cell line models for altered splicing, her work has helped establish RNA splicing factors as oncoproteins and tumor suppressors. Her research plan is to further understand the role of RNA splicing as a mechanism for oncogenesis and translate these findings into clinical advances.

    To read more about Dvinge, see her news item on the BMC website below. 

    URL: https://bmolchem.wisc.edu/index.htm

  • files/Filename/IPiB2013_logotype.jpgThe Integrated Program in Biochemistry — the joint graduate program of the Department of Biochemistry and Department of Biomolecular Chemistry — is proud to announce its recent award winners. Tyler Stanage earned the Sigrid Leirmo Memorial Award in Biochemistry and Michael Kelliher and Keren Turton each received a Denton Award for Graduate Student Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring.

    The Leirmo Award is named for an outstanding scientist who received her Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry in 1989 and was a postdoc in the Department of Bacteriology. She died unexpectedly in 1990 and her husband funds the award in her honor. She was widely known by her fellow students and colleagues as a promising research and an enthusiastic friend and mentor.

    The award recognizes a student’s or postdoc’s consistent willingness to contribute to the intellectual and technical potential of his or her fellow students and colleagues through the selfless help of others. Stanage, this year’s awardee, is a member the lab of biochemistry professor Mike Cox and studies DNA damage and repair.

    Kelliher, from the lab of Jill Wildonger, and Turton, from the lab of Deane Mosher, earned Denton Awards for their consistent commitment to quality, innovative classroom teaching and mentoring in a laboratory setting. The award is made possible by the Arnold E. and Catherine M. Denton Fund.

    The awards were announced Friday, June 9 at the IPiB Student Faculty Liaison Committee (SFLC) Summer Reception. SFLC also announced their new officers for the next academic year. The new officers are:

    To read more about the students who earned these awards, see the link below. 

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-ipib-mentoring-teaching-awards-2017-06-13

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    The function of a protein associated with breast cancer development and metastasis is now better understood, based on a new study by University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center (UWCCC) researchers.

    The study identified how the protein, CARM1, recognizes its target proteins, and should lead to a better understanding of how the cancer develops as well as the discovery of targeted drug therapies.

    "When CARM1 is overexpressed in breast cancer, the higher expression is correlated with a poorer prognosis," said Dr. Wei Xu, professor of oncology at UWCCC and the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research. "But we know very little about how it works."

    CARM1 is a member of a related group of proteins known as PRMTs which all work by adding a small chemical modification, a methylation, to their target proteins, thus changing the function of the target. Previous work from Xu's group has found a few cellular targets of CARM1, including one protein that promotes breast cancer metastasis when the protein has been chemically modified.

    To understand how elevated CARM1 levels contribute to breast cancer growth, Xu wanted to know all its targets, not just a few. Then, she attended a UWCCC research meeting on campus, where both she and UWCCC member Dr. Joshua Coon, professor of biomolecular chemistry and chemistry, presented. Coon is also the Director of the NIH National Center for Quantitative Biology of Complex Systems, a Center housed at UW that specializes in protein identification techniques, including one known as quantitative mass spectrometry.

    "After Wei presented, it became pretty clear that she had a problem that could benefit from our technology," Coon said. "In the past, she could identify CARM1 targets, but it was one at a time. We can tell you all the proteins that are present in a sample, or, in her case, all the target proteins that are methylated by CARM1."

    Evgenia Shishkova, a graduate student who works with Coon through UW's Integrated Program in Biochemistry, took on the project to identify all CARM1 targets in a highly efficient way. Rather than start with thousands of proteins and confirm or eliminate them one by one, she performed just two sets of experiments that isolated many new CARM1 targets.

    To read more about this story, see the original release from the UW–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. 

    URL: http://www.med.wisc.edu/news-events/study-sheds-light-on-function-of-protein-associated-with-high-risk-breast-cancers/50956

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    Ophelia Venturelli, assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is one of two researchers in the University of Wisconsin System to earn seed funding from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Shaw Scientist Program to pursue innovative approaches to advancing human health while supporting their career development.

    Venturelli’s lab seeks to understand how diverse networks of microorganisms living in the human gut communicate to realize key functions that impact health. Her goal is to determine how these microbes process information in response to environmental pressures and, in turn, function collectively as a community.

    The research may lead to the ability to engineer behaviors among beneficial microbes in the gut ecosystem, which could be used to enhance their resilience to invasion by pathogens or unintended impairment from antibiotics.

    To read more about Venturelli and her award see the link below. 

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-venturelli-shaw-scientist-award-2017-05-18

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    Structural biology and collaboration are two strong points at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In keeping with this tradition, a concerted cross-campus effort partly spearheaded by the Department of Biochemistry is working to bring a cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) facility to campus.

    Cryo-EM is a burgeoning tool that can help UW–Madison researchers make significant contributions to many areas of structural biology, including enzymology, virology, cell biology, and medicine. These discoveries can lead to a better understanding of many diseases and possible treatments.

    “I think cryo-EM has emerged as an indispensable method for structural analysis in the biosciences,” says biochemistry professor Robert Landick, who is one of the leaders on the project. “It is not hyperbole to say that it is revolutionizing our understanding of large macromolecular machines. For UW–Madison to remain a powerhouse in bioscience research, it is crucial that modern cryo-EM capabilities be brought to campus.”

    The facility will be housed in a 1,250-square-foot space in the Hector F. DeLuca Biochemistry Laboratories building but its users will be from across campus. Numerous colleges, research centers, departments, and researchers are coming together to secure the resources needed to establish the facility. Among those collaborating on projects and supporting the multi-million-dollar facility are the Morgridge Institute for Research, Materials Science Center, UW Carbone Cancer Center, Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, and School of Medicine and Public Health.

    Read more about this upcoming facility at the link below. 

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/highlights/2017/highlights-biochemistry-cryoem-facility-faculty

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    Numerous faculty members of the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB) are leading or collaborating on multiple projects that recently earned UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative awards. 

    The recent awards represent the third round of UW2020 funded projects since the initiative was launched last year. The goal of UW2020 is to stimulate and support cutting edge, highly innovative, and groundbreaking research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the acquisition of shared instruments or equipment that will open new avenues for innovative and significant research.

    “These awards position our faculty to be even more successful as they apply for extramural funding in an increasingly competitive environment,” says Marsha Mailick, UW–Madison Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education. “Innovative ideas like those proposed for UW2020 are critical to maintaining UW–Madison’s world-class research standing, and we are extremely grateful for WARF’s continuing support for this initiative.”

    To read more about these awards see the link below.  

    URL: http://news.wisc.edu/uw2020-warf-discovery-initiative-awards-announced/

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    Dave Pagliarini, associate professor of biochemistry and lead investigator of metabolism for the Morgridge Institute for Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is being recognized for major early-career achievement by The Protein Society.

    Pagliarini will receive one of the society’s eight distinct achievement awards during its 31st Annual Symposium in Montreal in July. The Protein Society is the premier international organization dedicated to supporting protein research.

    "This award is a special one for me,” says Pagliarini. “While my group likes to blend multiple methodologies, we consider protein biochemistry to be the heart and soul of what we do. It’s meaningful to have our work recognized by the society for protein science.”

    The Protein Science Young Investigator Award recognizes a scientist within the first eight years of an independent career who has made an important contribution to the study of proteins. Pagliarini joined the UW-Madison biochemistry faculty in 2009 and the Morgridge Institute in 2015.

    To read more about Pagliarini's award, see the link below.  

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-pagliarini-protein-society-award-2017-04-19

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    There are many processes that take place in cells that are essential for life. Two of these, transcription and translation, allow the genetic information stored in DNA to be deciphered into the proteins that form all living things, from bacteria to humans to plants.

    Scientists have known for half a century that these two processes are coupled in bacteria, but only now have they finally had a look at the structure that makes this possible. In a paper published in Science today [April 13], biochemists from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany have revealed the defined architecture of what is called the “expressome.”

    The researchers say this work using the model bacteria E. coli could open numerous doors for research into how bacteria impact human health, including a better basic understanding of gene regulation and possible development of new antibiotics.

    To read more about this work, see the press release at the link below.  

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-landick-bacterial-expressome-2017-04-13

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    The term “rhino” is derived from the Greek word for “nose.” Hence, human rhinoviruses are those responsible for the common cold and some can even pose a serious threat to those with asthma.

    In a recent review article on the cover of the Journal of Virology, biochemistry professor Ann Palmenberg summarizes hers and others’ research on the viruses that cause the common cold and specifically can harm those with asthma.

    While two rhinovirus species, called A and B, are the leading cause of the common cold, the C species poses a threat to young children, particularly those with asthma. In recent years, Palmenberg’s research has focused on rhinovirus C, and in 2016, along with collaborators, solved the atomic structure of the virus for the first time. Knowing the structure of a virus is commonly the first step to learning how to combat its effects.

    “These are human-specific viruses, and for a virus to infect a cell it has to recognize the right cell type based on proteins cells display on their surfaces,” explains Palmenberg, who is also a member of the Institute for Molecular Virology. “Rhinoviruses A and B use a protein called ICAM-1 to attach to and enter a cell, but Rhinovirus C uses a different protein, called CDHR3. That is what makes all the difference.”

    Read more about this story at the link below. 

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-palmenberg-biochemistry-rhinovirusc-2017-04-06

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    Integreated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB) faculty member James Keck recently won a Kellett Mid-Career Awards. Hailing from the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, he was one of 11 faculty members at the Univeristy of Wisconsin Madison to earn the award. 

    The Kellett awards recognize outstanding faculty seven to 20 years past their first promotion to a tenured position. A divisional committee appointed by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education chooses winners from professors nominated by departments, Ph.D. major programs and interdepartmental groups.

    Keck is professor of biomolecular chemistry and associate dean for basic sciences in the School of Medicine and Public Health. His studies focus on how cells replicate and repair their DNA at a molecular level, and how inhibitors that disrupt these processes could function as new antibiotics and chemotherapeutics. 

    Read more about the award and other winners at the link below.

    URL: http://news.wisc.edu/eleven-faculty-recognized-with-kellett-mid-career-awards/

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    Bacteria, like humans and animals, must eat.

    Sometimes, they consume a pollutant in the environment that humans want to get rid of, a process called bioremediation. Investigating the enzymes used by bacteria to carry out that process is important for scientists to understand and possibly improve on these powerful reactions. However, until now, having a snapshot of one of these important enzymes in action has eluded science.

    In a publication in the journal Nature released March 27, scientists from the Department of Biochemistry and Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have solved the structure of an enzyme caught in the act of attacking toluene — a chemical derived from wood and oil. The work is important because it provides a glimpse of the mechanics of a process that could be harnessed to help clean up oil spills and create valuable new chemicals.

    “In this research, we are trying to understand how nature uses iron atoms, electrons, and oxygen gas from the air to selectively oxidize chemicals,” says biochemistry Professor and Chair Brian Fox. “This reaction is the first step in a process where the carbon atoms in toluene, called an aromatic ring, are prepared for consumption by bacteria.”

    Read more about this research in the press release below.  

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-fox-enzyme-structure-2017-03-27

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    Anjon Audhya, associate professor of biomolecular chemistry, and 10 other young members of the UW–Madison faculty have been honored with Romnes Faculty Fellowships.

    Audhya. who is also the director of the Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology program, studies the fundamental mechanisms by which membrane proteins, lipids and other macromolecules are transported throughout eukaryotic cells. His laboratory has developed a multidisciplinary approach to define pathomechanisms that underlie human disease, focusing on the impact of mutations in key trafficking components that lead to neurodegeneration and cancer. 

    Romnes awards recognize exceptional faculty members who have earned tenure within the last six years. The awards are supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).

    The award is named for the late H.I. Romnes, former chairman of the board of AT&T and former president of the WARF Board of Trustees.

    URL: http://news.wisc.edu/eleven-professors-receive-romnes-faculty-fellowships/

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    Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry James Keck has accepted the position of Associate Dean for Basic Sciences within the UW School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), and stepped into his new role on March 1.

    Keck was previously Director of the NIH Molecular Biosciences Training Grant and is an active trainer in several graduate programs including the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB), the merged graduate training program of the CALS Department of Biochemistry and the SMPH Department of Biomolecular Chemistry. IPiB is an exceptional program designed to prepare students for successful careers in research, teaching, and science communication.

    In his new role, he will participate in overall leadership and oversight of SMPH’s master’s level and doctoral training programs, and also in the development and implementation of research or research training initiatives within the school. He will also serve as the primary point person for SMPH research cores and will participate in decisions for internal support of faculty research.

    Read more about Keck at the link below.  

    URL: http://bmolchem.wisc.edu/keck.htm

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    The Biotechnology Training Program (BTP) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison took Danielle Lohman all the way to Manila, Philippines to work in science diplomacy. Lohman, a student in the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB), has received funding through fellowships from BTP and the National Science Foundation during her graduate career.

    BTP requires its fellows to perform an internship and Lohman chose to venture out of the lab to Health Security Partners, a nonprofit start-up in Washington, D.C. While many fellows secure internships at national laboratories or biotechnology companies, Lohman saw the internship as a chance to try something new. Her work in the Philippines helped to define a select agent list, which would help to track potentially harmful substances like anthrax.

    “While it wasn’t a traditional biotech industry internship, so many of the skills I learned through BTP helped me secure the internship and succeed there,” Lohman says. “The networking, resume building, and understanding of the field of biotechnology are all transferable.”  



    IPiB, which Lohman became part of in 2012, is the joint graduate program of the Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry. BTP is a multi-disciplinary training program funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, an institute of the NIH.  

    “One of the biggest strengths of my graduate experience is the sense of community,” Lohman explains. “Along with the benefits of BTP, IPiB has a Student Faculty Liaison Committee, where a group of students discusses student-focused topics in the grad program and gets to work with faculty on them. I’ve been lucky to be involved in bringing in elements of outreach and career development for myself and my peers.”

    URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpKttMuDjh8

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    The community of microorganisms that resides in the gut, known as the microbiome, has been shown to work in tandem with the genes of a host organism to regulate insulin secretion, a key variable in the onset of the metabolic disease diabetes.

    That is the primary finding of a study published Feb. 14 in the journal Cell Reports by a team led by University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers Alan Attie and Federico Rey. The new report describes experiments in mice showing how genetic variation in a host animal shapes the microbiome — a rich ecosystem of mostly beneficial microorgannisms that resides in the gut — and sets the table for the onset of metabolic disease.

    “We’re trying to use genetics to find out how bugs affect diabetes and metabolism,” explains Attie, a UW–Madison professor of biochemistry and a corresponding author of the study.

    To read more about this research, see the press release below.  

    URL: http://news.wisc.edu/from-mice-clues-to-microbiomes-influence-on-metabolic-disease/

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    The Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry are pleased to invite you to register for the 38th Steenbock Symposium on June 22-June 25, 2017. The registration deadline is May 14, with the early registration deadline falling on March 30.

    The symposium’s theme, “Protein Trafficking in the Secretory Pathway,” will bring together researchers from the United States, as well as from Europe and Canada, to discuss and explore this important biochemical pathway. The symposium will take place on campus in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery Building.

    “This topic is researched from many different angles, mine being insulin and diabetes, but since many of the processes are important for multiple cellular functions we can all learn so much from each other at this symposium,” says Alan Attie, a professor of Biochemistry and one of the symposium’s organizers. “We seek to bring people together who may not meet each other elsewhere in order to generate new ideas and collaboration.”

    To read more about the symposium see its website: https://biochem.wisc.edu/symposia/steenbock/38th. To register for the symposium and submit to the poster session use the following link: https://uwccs.eventsair.com/steenbock38/reg/Site/Register.

    For more information, see the story below.  

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-steenbock-38-registration-2017-02-06

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    Human messenger RNA — the intermediate step between DNA and protein — is a bit like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Any book contains chapters arranged to tell a story. However, in a choose-your-own adventure, random chapters can be removed and the remaining sections stitched together in different combinations — and all of these new combinations tell a new story.

    The process of taking out chapters, or sections of RNA, and putting what remains back together is called splicing, and it is performed by a molecular machine called the spliceosome. The lab of assistant professor Aaron Hoskins in the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Biochemistry is studying the inner workings of this complex machine to understand not only how it works but also how mutations of the spliceosome can lead to disease. Their recent findings published in Nucleic Acids Research could advance scientists’ understanding of how mutations in the spliceosome can lead to health problems like cancer.

    To read more about this research, follow the link below.  

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-spliceosome-mutations-cancer-2017-01-25

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    Ronald Raines, the Henry Lardy Professor of Biochemistry, earned two national awards over the holiday. He was elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) and also received the Vincent du Vigneaud Award from the American Peptide Society (APS).

    “These awards are a tribute to the dedication of my students and postdocs,” says Raines, who is also a professor of chemistry. “Without them I could do little. It’s great to bring these honors back to the university.”

    To read more about these awards, see the link below.  

    URL: https://biochem.wisc.edu/news/2017/news-raines-nai-and-aps-awards-2017-01-18

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    The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine at Public Health has awarded $300,000 through its New Investigator Program.

    The awards, each $100,000 over two years, support early-career investigators who are taking innovative approaches to address a diverse range of public health issues in Wisconsin.

    Biomolecular chemistry professor Matthew Merrins won one of the awards for his project titled "Reprogramming β-cell Metabolism to Prevent and Rescue Type 2 Diabetes." 

    The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in Wisconsin is rapidly climbing, imposing a significant burden on the health care system. The clinical manifestation of diabetes is attributed to the failure of insulin secretion from pancreatic β (beta) cells.

    This project proposes that activating a metabolic enzyme, pyruvate kinase, has the potential to prevent diabetes and rescue insulin secretion from the diabetic β-cell. The studies are needed to provide a firm scientific basis for a clinical intervention that preserves β-cell metabolic health in people.

    To read more about this grant, see the link below. 

    URL: http://www.med.wisc.edu/news-events/partnership-grants-address-health-disparities-womens-health-diabetes/49938