January 2013

Two new JBC/Tabor young investigator award winners

 

Horvath wins for characterization of Psd1 in yeast
 

Photo of George Carman and Susanne Horvath 
Journal of Biological Chemistry Associate Editor George Carman presented the award to Susanne Horvath at the 53rd International Conference on the Bioscience of Lipids/Canadian Lipoprotein Conference in Banff, Alberta, Canada, in September.

Susanne Horvath, a doctoral student in the Institute of Biochemistry at the University of Technology in Graz, Austria, won the Journal of Biological Chemistry/Herb Tabor Young Investigator Award in September at the 53rd International Conference on the Bioscience of Lipids/Canadian Lipoprotein Conference in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Horvath was recognized for her work on the characterization of phosphatidylserine decarboxylase 1, or Psd1, in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Under the mentorship of Günther Daum, Horvath has been working on Psd1 since 2008. Psd1, Horvath explains, is “a key enzyme in yeast lipid metabolism by catalyzing the formation of phosphatidylethanolamine from phosphatidylserine in mitochondria.” Horvath says of the detailed biochemical analysis her team did: “We investigated processing and topology of Psd1 ... (and) reported that two matrix-located processing peptidases, MPP and Oct1, sequentially remove N-terminal signal sequences from the Psd1 precursor.” She adds, “After an autocatalytic step, Psd1 is processed to the mature α- and β-subunits, which are localized to the intermembrane space and inner-mitochondrial membrane, respectively. This self-processing step does not depend on proper localization but is restricted to mitochondria.” Horvath also observed that deletion of a hydrophobic stretch within the β-subunit causes mislocalization of the enzyme to the mitochondrial matrix, reduced enzymatic activity and a decrease of PE — but it “does not affect separation into both nonidentical Psd1 subunits.” Therefore, correct localization of Psd1 is essential for proper enzymatic function and maintenance of mitochondrial lipid homeostasis, Horvath says. A product of TUG undergraduate studies in chemistry, Horvath expressed gratitude to her mentors and the experiences she picked up along the way, citing her six-month stint in Nikolaus Pfanner’s group in Freiburg, Germany, as an experience that helped her develop a her current study. Horvath says it has been gratifying to work on the Psd1 project with her sister, who is completing her master’s thesis project.
 
 

Rathinam wins for work on mechanisms of inflammasome activation
 

Charles Samuel and Vijay Rathinam 
Vijay Rathinam won his Journal of Biological Chemistry/Herb Tabor Young Investigator Award at Cytokines 2012 — the joint meeting of the International Cytokine Society and The International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research — in Geneva, Switzerland. Rathinam was presented the award by JBC Associate Editor Chuck Samuel.

Vijay Rathinam, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, won the Journal of Biological Chemistry/Herb Tabor Young Investigator Award in September at Cytokines 2012: 10th Joint Meeting of the International Cytokine Society and The International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research in Geneva, Switzerland. Rathinam was acknowledged for his work demonstrating a fundamental mechanism underlying host defense against bacterial pathogens. Rathinam, who works in Kate Fitzgerald’s lab, described his current work as “identifying a novel TRIF pathway that licenses NLRP3 inflammasome activation by Gram-negative bacteria.” He adds that, “By engaging TLR4-TRIF-type I interferon signaling, gram-negative bacteria activate an inflammatory caspase, caspase-11, which then regulates the activation of caspase-1 and processing of IL-1β and IL-18.” The identification of TRIF as a critical regulator of caspase-11-dependent inflammatory responses, he says, “provides new insights into the integration of immune signals during Gram-negative infection.” Rathinam received his doctorate of veterinary medicine and Ph.D. from Madras Veterinary College and Michigan State University, respectively. His passion for understanding the molecular basis of innate immune recognition of pathogens has been recognized before: He received the New England Regional Center of Excellence in Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Career Development Award and the American Association of Immunologists’ Life Technologies Trainee Achievement Award.
 
 
 

Photo of Kevin McPhersonKevin McPherson (kevin.mcpherson@emory.edu) is a junior majoring in chemistry at Emory University in Atlanta. He is also a research assistant in the Hartzell lab in the department of cell biology at Emory School of Medicine.
 
 


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