Recent Grant Awards

Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate Melanie Gainey received an NRSA Fellowship from NINDS. Working in the Turrigiano lab, Melanie plans to study the role of the AMPA receptor subunit GluR2 in synaptic scaling in cultural neurons and in vivo using a conditional GluR2 knockout mouse.

Assistant Professor Suzanne Paradis received a Smith Family New Investigator Award from the Richard & Susan Smith Family Foundation. $300,000 in support over three years will support the lab’s efforts to study synapse development and specifically the role of the Sema4B protein in controlling synapse formation.

Professor Leslie Griffith received $1.1 million over 5 years from NIMH to study why sleep is required for effective memory formation. To understand this linkage at a cellular and molecular level, the Griffith lab is defining the circuits that regulate sleep in Drosophila and how these circuits affect memory formation.

Professor Larry Wangh received $1.38 million over the next year from Smiths Detection to continue research and invention of LATE-PCR et al., platform technologies for highly informative detection and diagnosis of nucleic acids in a single tube.  There are ongoing projects looking at applications to cancer, prenatal genetics, and several infectious diseases in people and animals.

Sigma factors

In a new study appearing in PNAS this week, Brandeis Molecular and Cell Biology graduate student Houra Merrikh and co-workers from the Lovett lab identified the E.coli gene iraD as a regulator of the response to oxidative DNA damage in exponentially growing bacteria. Interestingly, the mechanism seems to involve the alternative RNA polymerase sigma factor RpoS, previously characterized as a regulator of expression during the “stationary phase”. Merrikh et al. argue that this response works in parallel with the previously characterized SOS response in protecting growing bacteria from DNA damage.

Microscopy (2): studying molecular motors

An article in Cell by recent Molecular and Cell Biology Ph.D. graduate Susan Tran and coworkers demonstrates the power of single particle microscopy in combination with Drosophila genetics in studying molecular motors. Studying lipid droplet movement in embryos, they show that multiple motors are attached to droplets in vivo. Surprisingly, having multiple motors per droplet in vivo doesn’t result in higher velocities or distances traveled.

Cell cycle checkpoint from the stringent response

E.coli cells exiting the stringent response

E.coli cells exiting the stringent response

The stringent response in E.coli is a response to nutrient (typically amino acid) starvation and is characterized by the accumulation of the small molecular regulator ppGpp, and a global response in transcriptional regulation.  In a new paper in PLoS Genetics, Daniel Ferullo and Susan Lovett examine chromosome segregation during the stringent respons and discuss what appears to be a novel G1-like cell cycle checkpoint in bacteria that occurs as the result.

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