Award

Using crystallography to answer questions of structure and function

Caroline Soliman wins JBC/Tabor Young Investigator Award
Kerri Beth  Boggs
March 1, 2019

Caroline Soliman discovered her love for lab work as an undergraduate studying biomedical science at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She thrived on doing hands-on work to answer the question “What’s my goal, and how am I going to get there?”

 

Caroline SolimanThe findings of Caroline Soliman’s team are crucial for understanding the function of carbohydrate-binding human antibodies as potential microbial therapeutics.

Now a graduate student at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, or RMIT, Soliman won a 2019 Journal of Biological Chemistry/Herbert Tabor Young Investigator Award for her work on the structural characterization of antibody candidates that recognize carbohydrates for immunotherapy for infection.

Soliman earned an honors degree at Monash University through the Burnet Institute. For her thesis, she worked with Paul Ramsland, now her dissertation mentor, to develop a peptide-based inhibitor to mimic the binding of a microbial protein to immunoglobulin A. The project sparked an interest in crystallography.

“I gained an appreciation for the importance of structure in terms of function,” she said.

After a short break from research, Soliman returned to Ramsland’s lab for her doctoral training at RMIT. Together, they crafted a project with translational benefits and an international collaboration with Gerald Pier of Harvard Medical School that would give Soliman the chance to develop her crystallography skills.

“My supervisor has been very supportive and encouraging,” she said, adding that Ramsland helped her navigate the roadblocks of learning crystallography, teaching her how to collect data from the Australian Synchrotron and walking her through the process of solving a crystal structure.

When not solving crystal structures, Soliman can be found in the kitchen baking cakes, tarts and other sweet treats. She also enjoys reading, swimming at the beach and spending time with her family in Melbourne.

After completing her Ph.D., Soliman hopes to pursue a career in research and to teach immunology.

“It’s really important to do something you enjoy,” she said.

Fighting antibiotic resistance with antibodies

Antibiotics are used to fight bacterial infections, but antibiotic resistance has created a need for alternative therapies. Many of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria prioritized for therapeutic development are known to form biofilms, sticky aggregations of microbes that act as an additional barrier against antibacterial therapies.

Therapeutic antibodies are a strong candidate to overcome both antibiotic resistance and barriers such as bacterial biofilms. Humans typically develop protective antibodies to bacterial carbohydrates as a result of infection, so researchers have focused on carbohydrate-binding antibodies. Specifically, the human antibody F598 is being tested in the clinical setting because it can elicit protective activities after binding to the microbial carbohydrate poly-N-acetyl-D-glucosamine, or PNAG, which is a polymer of N-acetyl-D-glucosamine, or GlcNAc, units.

To understand how this antibody targets PNAG, Caroline Soliman and colleagues defined the structural basis for recognition of PNAG by F598. They determined crystal structures for the antibody-binding fragment, or Fab, of F598 and its complexes with two carbohydrates, GlcNAc and a PNAG oligosaccharide. They found that the Fab binds to extracellular polysaccharide in biofilms and to PNAG on the surface of Staphylococcus aureus.

This was the first study to report the structural basis for human antibody recognition of PNAG.

Kerri Beth  Boggs

Kerri Beth Boggs is a graduate student in the biochemistry department at the University of Kentucky.

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

Springer honored for service; remembering Gutfreund
Member News

Springer honored for service; remembering Gutfreund

May 10, 2021

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

Part 1: ‘Aha moments’ essay contest honorable mentions
Contest

Part 1: ‘Aha moments’ essay contest honorable mentions

May 6, 2021

To celebrate our three journals going open access, we invited readers to share their moments of discovery in science. Here are two honorable mentions.

Share your aha moments!
Editor's Note

Share your aha moments!

May 4, 2021

How a brainstorming session produced two videos, an essay contest and gratitude.

Winners of the ‘aha moments’ essay contest
Contest

Winners of the ‘aha moments’ essay contest

May 4, 2021

To celebrate our three journals going open access, we invited readers to share their moments of discovery in science. Here are the first, second and third place winners.

Stoddard wins mentoring award; Do honored as scholar–athlete
Member News

Stoddard wins mentoring award; Do honored as scholar–athlete

May 3, 2021

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

ASBMB welcomes new members
Member News

ASBMB welcomes new members

May 3, 2021

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology welcomed more than 340 new members in January.