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Discovery to help design cancer drugs

January 6, 2020 - In a new paper, Associate Professor Martin Horvathet al, indicates that while DNA damage is inevitable, there are repair enzymes like MutY that find and remove the damage before it becomes a bigger problem leading to cancer, especially in the colon. It does this by preventing mutations in DNA by finding OG:A basepairs and removing the A base. “Our work,” says Horvath who is on faculty at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Utah, “shows that the central mission of finding OG:A basepairs in an ocean of normal DNA relies on a 3-residue loop in one domain of MutY.” These 3 residues are well conserved through evolution and spell FiSH (the i is not really part of the loop, but makes for an easy-to-remember word). The central S (Ser) residue in the study, for example, changed its position when damaged OG was replaced by normal G, as revealed by X-ray crystallography, the science that determines the atomic and molecular structure of a protein. “When we made changes to two or more of these FiSH residues, mutation rates increased in cells, and MutY bound to DNA more weakly, removed A from OG:A basepairs more slowly, and failed to tell apart OG:A (authentic substrate) and G:A (off-target decoy).” The importance of these discoveries is that they can guide the design of cancer cell-killing drugs. See Article ...

OUR DNA latest issue

December 6, 2019 - Hot off the Press! OUR DNA is a dynamic 360-degree snapshot of both the depth and breadth of the people, the research and the outreach that make up one of the University of Utah's most celebrated academic units. In both print and digital formats, the latest issue (Fall 2019) features stories about faculty members CRISPR-wielding James (Jamie) Gagnon, “Ant Man” John (Jack) Longino, our newest faculty member Dean Castillo and botanist plant water transport specialist John Sperry (who is retiring this year). A profile of alumnus Dr. Nikhil Bhayani (BS’98) takes a bow along with other alumni updates from basketball-player-turned-doctor (Larry Cain BS’93) to Sue Phillips (MS’96) the U.S. Geological Survey’s new director of the FRESC center in Oregon.  Undergraduate research students like Bridget Phillips (Shapiro lab) get a plug as does the remarkable story about the Colin Dale Lab’s project of firebugs collected by citizen scientist 2nd graders. Pick up your copy today or see the full magazine online at Our DNA Fall 2019

John S. Parkinson honored as AAAS Fellow

December 9, 2019 - John S. Parkinson was one of two fellows from the University of Utah named to the Council of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for “distinguished contributions to the field of molecular microbiology, particularly using genetic and in vivo analyses to study bacterial chemotaxis, behavior and signal transduction.” “My election as AAAS Fellow is, indeed, a greatly appreciated honor,” says Parkinson. “I believe that it recognizes the nearly 50 years of research by my group at the U into the molecular signaling mechanisms that bacteria have evolved to detect and respond adaptively to environmental changes. Since my arrival at the U in 1972, my lab’s research has been funded by NIH grants, the first of which is now in its 46th year of continuous support. We’ve exploited the chemotaxis behavior of E. coli as an experimental model to study chemoreception and signal transduction mechanisms of transmembrane chemoreceptor proteins.  We’ve discovered mechanisms and general principles never imagined at the outset of our work.  Yet, there are signaling mysteries still unsolved. My group hopes to learn more molecular answers in the years to come.”

Most influential researchers

November 29, 2019 - Since 2002, the Highly Cited Researchers list has identified global research scientists and social scientists who have demonstrated exceptional influence – reflected through their publication of multiple papers frequently cited by their peers during the last decade. Congratulations to John Sperry and William “Bill” Anderegg who made this prestigious list this year.

Treetop Barbie

September 23, 2019 - When Nalini Nadkarni was a young scientist in the 1980s, she wanted to study the canopy – the part of the trees just above the forest floor to the very top branches.  But back then, people hadn't figured out a good way to easily reach the canopy so it was difficult to conduct research in the tree tops. And Nadkarni's graduate school advisors didn't really think studying the canopy was worthwhile.   During Nadkarni's early work as an ecologist she began to realize something else: There weren't many women conducting canopy research.  Nadkarni was determined to change this. In the early 2000s, she and her lab colleagues came up with the idea of TreeTop Barbie, a canopy researcher version of the popular Barbie doll that could be marketed to young girls. NPR Interview ...

Biology professor Longino Mapping diversity

September 4, 2019 - “You can think of what I do as making a map of diversity,” says entomologist and professor at the School of Biological Sciences John “Jack” Longino. “The first step in understanding and using animals and plants is having a map of what we've got. I've dedicated my career to filling in the map.” That map is about to get a lot more detailed now that the National Science Foundation has awarded Longino and his collaborators a $1.3 million grant for “Ants of the World.” The project is designed to obtain genetic information from 4,500 species of ants around the world. Recently, Longino compiled decades of his work into a monograph, detailing 234 species of the ant genus Pheidole. He’s given names to 57 of those species himself. Longino formatted the monograph to emulate a bird guide, hoping to engage more ant fans in the work of documenting and conserving ant species. Now with his collaborators at Univ. California, Davis; California Academy of Sciences; and North Carolina State University, he is poised to construct a comprehensive evolutionary tree of life for his favorite insect family: ants.

Biology Newsletter 'our DNA' Previous Issues

Spring 2019

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