Annual Meeting

Lipoprotein researcher to talk about structure studies

Melchior refined a technique to separate HDL particles
Courtney Chandler
March 1, 2019

For John Melchior, the thrill of research comes from standing on the precipice of the unknown.

“There is nothing quite like the feeling of striking gold and getting a new piece of critical data,” he said. “At that very moment, you’re likely the only person in the entire world that knows that biology.”

John MelchiorJohn Melchior refined a technique to separate high-density lipoprotein particles based on the presence of certain proteins.

Melchior researches the structural complexity of high density lipoproteins, or HDL, as a postdoctoral fellow in Sean Davidson’s lab at the University of Cincinnati. Based on his work, he was selected by the Journal of Lipid Research to speak in a special session highlighting up-and-coming researchers at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting.

Melchior said he “fell in love with lipoproteins” during his graduate studies at Wake Forest University, where he was trained in lipid biochemistry. He has continued to study lipoproteins, this time from the protein side. He refined a technique to separate HDL particles based on whether they contain a protein called apoA-II and determined that apoA-II is critical for the positive effects of HDL.

“I found this extremely exciting,” he said. “The logical next steps were to understand the role of apoA-II’s structure in modulating this function.”

His initial attempts to understand the structure of apoA-II were halted when Nature News reported that a previously published crystal structure of the protein was falsified. But Melchior sees what he called an “unfortunate setback” as an opportunity for his structural studies to help fill the gaps of what remains unknown about apoA-II.

Melchior hopes his work will benefit the HDL research community as a whole; for him, this community is almost as important as the research itself.

“I’ve been fortunate to establish relationships with some amazing people who also happen to be excellent scientists,” he said. “I’m really grateful for the community and the friendships that have enriched my life.”

Dissecting the structure of HDL

High density lipoproteins, or HDL, are known as the “good” cholesterol and are thought to decrease risk of heart disease as well as chronic inflammatory diseases. Though commonly thought of as a single number on a patient’s medical chart, HDL is incredibly complex.

The focus of John Melchior’s research is this complexity. He is developing new ways of physically separating subspecies of HDL. Despite their physical similarity, Melchior has been able to isolate very specific subspecies and has found that particles that contain a protein called apoA-II are better at removing cholesterol from cells compared to particles that lack apoA-II. This ability to remove “bad” cholesterol, called the cholesterol efflux property, has been linked to protection against heart disease in several clinical studies.

Melchior’s work could have a direct impact on medical care in addition to contributing to the field of lipid research. The information he gains from understanding the structures of different HDL particles could be used to develop clinical assays that may better identify patients that are at higher risk for heart disease.

Courtney Chandler

Courtney Chandler is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and an industry careers columnist for ASBMB Today.

Join the ASBMB Today mailing list

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.

Latest in People

People highlights or most popular articles

Conaway named vice provost; Emr wins Shaw Prize; remembering Hartley
Member News

Conaway named vice provost; Emr wins Shaw Prize; remembering Hartley

July 26, 2021

Awards, promotions, milestones and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.

Remembering Turk and Yamamoto
In Memoriam

Remembering Turk and Yamamoto

July 19, 2021

We look back on the lives of a mass spectrometry pioneer and member of the JBC editorial board and a researcher focused on enzymology and the biochemistry of lipids involved in inflammation.

2021 voter guide
Member News

2021 voter guide

July 14, 2021

Learn about the positions and candidates running for ASBMB president-elect, treasurer, Council and Nominating Committee.

Dixon retires from UCSD; Johnson–Winters honored for essay; Mississippi State recognizes Sparks
Member News

Dixon retires from UCSD; Johnson–Winters honored for essay; Mississippi State recognizes Sparks

July 12, 2021

Awards, promotions, milestones and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.

Ambitious gene editing needs an ambitious pair of scissors
Profile

Ambitious gene editing needs an ambitious pair of scissors

July 10, 2021

Amit Choudhary speaks about being agnostic to scientific disciplines, and the power of CRISPR/Cas9.

Craik to join Royal Society; Wiegel lands fellowship, wins award for talk
Member News

Craik to join Royal Society; Wiegel lands fellowship, wins award for talk

July 5, 2021

Awards, promotions, milestones and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.