Exploring the Roles of Pseudophosphatase MK-STYX in Autophagy

Exploring the Roles of Pseudophosphatase MK-STYX in Autophagy

 

Cells carry out an incredible variety of processes to keep themselves and the greater organism they comprise functioning efficiently and healthily. As with most complex systems, cells possess a means of eliminating unwanted components and reusing or recycling the individual parts of these superfluous components into important constituent parts like amino acids and nucleic acids. This cellular recycling system is known as autophagy, and it permits organisms and their various cell types to remove redundant biomolecules [1]. In addition, autophagy allows cells to sustain themselves in times of starvation or stress by breaking down complex organelles and proteins into energy and basic biological building blocks. Unsurprisingly, autophagy is highly relevant to both healthy and diseased states, because a baseline level of autophagy is essential to an organism’s physical wellbeing. Conversely, a grossly dysregulated autophagic process affects and mediates pathogenesis and progression of cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, and metabolic disorders [2]. The pseudophosphatase MK-STYX and its roles in cellular processes represent the primary research focus of the Hinton Lab.  As a pseudophosphatase, MK-STYX lacks the catalytic ability to remove a phosphate group from proteins, but can bind targets with its pseudophosphatase domain and protein-interacting CH2 domain.  The importance of pseudophospahtases has only recently been accepted, thus MK-STYX and the other proteins in this group populate an exciting forefront of scientific inquiry.  Previous findings from our research lab have demonstrated that MK-STYX activity helps clear stress granules (made of translationally halted mRNA and associated proteins) from cells [3].  The two pathways that clear stress granules are the autophagy and ubiquitin protease pathways.  Based on recent studies conducted by our lab that showed MK-STYX altering the activity and expression levels of autophagy proteins, I decided to focus my research efforts on further characterizing MK-STYX’s roles in this critical intracellular homeostatic process.

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Measuring extensional paleorifting in the Scottsville Basin

The Scottsville Basin is a small Mesozoic rift basin formed by extensional faulting in eastern North America. This basin is a very small geologic structure located in central Virginia between the Blue Ridge and Piedmont provinces.  It is bounded by a normal fault on its western border and a shallow normal fault on the eastern border; this segmented half-graben structure is generally indicative of extensional rifting. The Scottsville basin is roughly 130 km², with strata across the surface increasing in thickness from west to east. This is likely indicative of syndepositional rifting, which can be seen in Fig. 1 below. The half-grabens that make up the deeper structure of the basin pass through isothermal closure temperatures that can be measured using isotopic ratios.

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What genes are potentially involved in the organogenesis and/or maintenance of the Drosophila testis stem cell niche

Stem cells play a critical role in organ development, tissue regeneration and tissue homeostasis. Testis of the adult fruit fly, D. melanogaster, are among the most thoroughly characterized stem cell systems. The Drosophila testis stem cell niche is comprised of three cell types: sperm producing germline stem cells (GSCs), somatic cyst stem cells (CySCs) that nurture GSC maintenance and differentiation, and somatic hub cells to which GSCs and CySCs are docked. Asymmetric division of these two stem cell types produces a population of self-renewing stem cells that remains docked at the niche, as well as differentiated daughter cells that move away from the hub. While mechanisms regulating stem cell maintenance and differentiation in adult testes are well understood, much less is known about the process of germline stem cell niche development. To elucidate mechanisms controlling this process, we are conducting an RNAi screen to identify novel genes that take part testis stem cell niche formation. It is hoped that by assaying these genes with the primary and secondary screenings, valuable insight will be gained as to their role in stem cell differentiation and organogenesis. With knowledge gained from our helpful informative evolutionary relative, the common fruit fly, humans can gain a deeper understanding of our own genetic developmental processes.  Through the medical application of such scientific discovery, we can raise the quality of life for the far too many people who are suffering from potentially treatable trauma or developmental diseases.

Abstract: Social phenotypes in S. cerevisiae

Microbes were once thought to just float around at random not interacting with each other in a meaningful way, however we now know that they exhibit complex social interactions, such as cooperation, communalism, competition, and even chemical warfare. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an extremely powerful model organism for studies of eukaryotic biology. It has been studied intensely, in great detail, for many years and has been used to unravel many of the basic processes underlying genetics and cell biology. Until the past 5 years, however, the study of its social interactions with other yeast has not been looked at in detail. My proposal aims to characterize an understudied social phenotype expressed by many wild S. cerevisiae strains in order to understand the functioning of cooperative yeast communities.

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