Epstein to be Senior Advisor to the Provost for Research

Irving R. Epstein, Henry F. Fischbach Professor of Chemistry, was today named Senior Advisor to the Provost for Research. In this new role, according to Provost Steve A. N. Goldstein, Epstein will work with faculty, center directors, and campus academic and administrative leaders to enhance the University’s research enterprise. Epstein will lead the implementation of improvements for research support and coordination, including identifying and obtaining new research funding, and provide guidance for effective research administration services and research funding.

What is α-synuclein when it’s not aggregated?

In a recent paper in PNAS, co-lead authors Wei Wang (Indiana U. School of Medicine) and Iva Perovic (Chemistry Ph. D. program, Brandeis), together with researchers from Brandeis, Indiana, Scripps, NIH, Washington State, and Harvard, investigated the structure of the abundant small neuronal protein α-synuclein. α-Synuclein has been strongly associated with the disease process in Parkinson disease, both from histology (found in aggregates in Lewy bodies associated with disease) and from genetics (mutations in the gene associated with a rare familial form of Parkinson disease). The structure and function of α-synuclein is not well understood. It is an abundant neuronal protein, and appears to bind to lipids, vesicles, and plasma membrane. Heterologously expressed α-synuclein is often observed to be unfolded, and the biochemical role of the protein is still unidentified.

In this new study, α-synuclein was expressed as a GST fusion protein in E. coli and proteolytically cleaved to form α-synuclein with a 10 amino acid N-terminal extension. This protein was shown to form a stable tetrameter with alpha-helical content in the absence of lipids, using a combination of many techniques, including NMR spectroscopy, electron microscopy, circular dichroism and mass spectroscopy of cross-linked products. The authors combined this information to propose a model for the structure of native α-synuclein when it is not aggregated that is a tetramer based on amphipathic central helices.

Researchers in the Pochapsky, Petsko-Ringe and Agar labs at Brandeis participated in the study. Future work is aimed at understanding the function of this tetrameric form of the protein, with the hope of developing techniques to stabilize it and determine its function. For more information and interview with the authors, see the story at BrandeisNOW.


Snider named ACS Fellow

Charles A. Breskin Professor of Organic Chemistry Barry Snider has been named a Fellow by the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS members are selected as fellows to recognize and honor their outstanding achievements in and contributions to science, the profession, and ACS. Fellows will be inducted at the ACS National Meeting in Denver on Aug. 29. Snider’s work in recent years has focused on total synthesis of natural products, a dazzling array of which are shown on his website: Recent stories on this blog discussing new syntheses from the Snider lab include:



Long receives HHMI fellowship to develop new protein degradation strategy

Marcus Long, a 3rd yr PhD student in the Graduate Program in Biochemistry who works in the Hedstrom Lab, has been awarded a Howard Hughes International Student Predoctoral Research Fellowship for 2011-2013. This award, which is open only to students at selected universities, is given to roughly 40 international students in the life sciences per year in the US. The receipt of this award reflects strongly on the quality of research conducted in Brandeis, and particularly the interdisciplinary approach taken by principal investigator, Prof. Liz Hedstrom. Application for the award requires a clear research plan, which in this instance involves a novel protein degradation strategy (called IMPED), which was pioneered by Prof Hedstrom and her laboratory. Marcus will play his part in a collaborative effort  (alongside lab mates Rory Coffey, Devi Gollapali and established Hedstrom Group collaborators) to understand the mechanism and limitations of this new methodology.

Mehmet Fisek (BS/MS ’08), an alumnus of the Marder lab and undergraduate Neuroscience program at Brandeis, was also among the 48 winners named. Mehmet is currently doing graduate research in Rachel Wilson’s lab in the Dept. of Neurobiology at Harvard, working on olfactory neurophysiology in Drosophila.

See also story at Brandeis NOW.

Biomimetic Route to Maldoxin

In their recent Organic Letters paper entitled the Syntheses of Chloroisosulochrin and Isosulochrin and Biomimetic Elaboration to Maldoxin, Maldoxone, Dihydromaldoxin, and Dechlorodihydromaldoxin, the Snider lab at Brandeis developed an efficient biomimetic synthesis of maldoxin (4), the biological precursor of several cytotoxic natural products recently isolated from the plant endophytic fungus Pestalotiopsis fici. Chloroisosulochrin (1) was synthesized for the first time and elaborated to maldoxin (4) by a three-step biomimetic route consisting of oxidative cyclization to give spirofuranone 2, acid catalyzed ring opening to yield dihydromaldoxin (3) and a second oxidative cyclization to form maldoxin (4).

Electrophilic chlorination of phenols usually takes place unselectively at both ortho and para positions.  For the synthesis of chloroisosulochrin, they developed an ortho selective chlorination using 2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidine and sulfuryl chloride.  Presumably a hindered N-chloroamine is formed, which hydrogen bonds to the phenol and delivers electrophilic chlorine intramolecularly.

New courses, Fall 2011

New courses offered in the Division of Science in Fall, 2011:

BISC 9B Biology of Cancer (Dore)

Introduces the fundamental aspects of cancer development, progression and treatment with an emphasis on the cellular and molecular changes thought to lead to cancer. Both genetic and lifestyle factors and their impact on the predisposition to develop and recover from cancer will be discussed. Usually offered every year.

CBIO 101A  Chemical Biology (Pontrello)

Chemical biology is not just biochemistry, and the subject involves much more than a simple combination of chemistry and biology topics. This course will explore how recent cutting edge scientific work in chemistry has led to a deeper fundamental understanding of and ability to manipulate biological processes. Emphasis will be placed on the design and chemical synthesis of micro and macromolecular structures that allow scientists to ask unique chemical and biological questions as well as to control biological systems. Both synthetic strategies and characterization as well as biological evaluation and utility will be discussed. The course will consist of scientific literature readings, periodic assignments and exams based on literature and lecture content, as well as group projects and exercises. A textbook is not required, although retention of prerequisite course textbooks is strongly recommended. Topics will range from fluorescent probes, chemical inducers of dimerization, bacterial chemotaxis, controlling stem cell differentiation, solid phase synthesis, synthetic nucleotides, B cell activation, and chemical-inducers of dimerization, just to name a few.

This is not an introductory science course, and the structure will be designed to enhance student understanding of the subject through primary literature and group discussion and review. After several instructor lectures covering general chemistry and biology background, each class will be structured around student presentations of assigned primary scientific literature as a starting point for class discussion about the area of research. The course will also include a project where each student will search chemical biology journals, select a recent article they find interesting, and prepare a report explaining background, fundamental chemistry and biology addressed in the paper, results and applications, and also future directions and implications for the field. The final exam will be based on the content of this collective work.

BCHM 104A Physical Chemistry of Macromolecules I (C.Miller, Oprian)

Covers basics of physical chemistry underpinning applications in BCHM 104b. Focus is placed on quantitative treatments of the probabilistic nature of molecular reality: molecular kinetic theory, basic statistical mechanics, and chemical thermodynamics in aqueous solution. Usually offered every second year

BIOL 107A Data Analysis and Statistics Workshop (Van Hooser)

The interpretation of data is key to making new discoveries, making optimal decisions, and designing experiments. Students will learn skills of data analysis through hands-on, computer-based tutorials and exercises that include experimental data from the biological sciences. Knowledge of very basic statistics (mean, median) will be assumed. Usually offered every second year.

BCHM 172A Cholesterol in Health and Disease (Westover)

In today’s supermarkets, many foods are proudly labeled “cholesterol-free.” 1in 4 Americans over 45 take medicine to lower their cholesterol levels.  Yet, every beginning biology student learns that cholesterol is an essential component of mammalian cell membranes.

This fall, the Biochemistry Department’s Emily Westover will teach a new course called Cholesterol in Health and Disease, BCHM 172a. Drawing from the current literature, students in this course will explore many facets of cholesterol science.  This course will be case study in cholesterol, bringing together concepts from a variety of disciplines, including cell biology, biophysics, biochemistry, physiology and medicine.

The class will address questions such as:

  • How does the body balance production and dietary uptake of cholesterol?
  • What effects does cholesterol have on membrane and protein function?
  • What is the connection between cholesterol and atherosclerosis?

BCHM 172 will meet Tuesdays at 2 pm in the 4th floor Ros-Kos Conference Room.

NBIO 157A Project Laboratory in Neurobiology and Behavior (Vecsey)

What is it like to be a scientist?

Many college science courses don’t help students answer that question. In lecture courses, a host of scientific facts are taught via textbook, but at the end of the course students have read little if any primary research, and would be hard-pressed to explain in detail how those facts were discovered. Courses with labs often have “recipe books” that lay out all of the necessary ingredients and steps required to achieve a desired experimental result. Even students who try to get scientific training by working in a lab may at first be relegated to perform menial tasks that are not fully representative of the scientific process.

With all of this in mind, Brandeis University introduced a series of courses called Project Labs. In these courses, students carry out legitimate research projects in a range of disciplines. No cookbooks, no expected outcomes. We start with an introduction to a biological question, and then set about answering it. We read primary literature to understand the basis for the research we will carry out, and we write up the results in a true journal format.

The newest installment in the Project Lab series is Bio157a, the Project Lab in Neurobiology and Behavior. In this course, the ultimate goal is to understand how an animal like the fruit fly senses and responds to temperature. Specifically, we will examine temperature preference behavior in Drosophila melanogaster and several related species. Some of those species are native to cold climates, whereas others hail from deserts such as the Mojave. Have these species evolved to prefer different temperatures? Or are they simply more tolerant of those temperatures? These are some of the core questions that we will address. What the results will be we can only guess – and that’s what it’s like to be a scientist!

Protected by Akismet
Blog with WordPress

Welcome Guest | Login (Brandeis Members Only)