By Paul C Sanschagrin
Professor Karen Allen and Dr. Jeff Bacon, staff crystallographer of the Chemical Instrumentation Center (CIC), demonstrated the power of X-ray crystallography to local area high school students as part of an American Crystallographic Association (ACA) outreach program. The scientists hosted two groups. In March, 12 students from Acton-Boxborough Regional High School and their teacher, Aaron Mathieu visited; and in May, 15 students from Prospect Hill Academy and their teacher, Katie Boiteau visited. Both groups had grown their own crystals of lysozyme, prepared in their school laboratory or at CityLab, a fully equipped biotechnology laboratory in the BU School of Medicine that is available to Middle and High School students, educators, and other groups.
Each group learned about the history and theory of X-ray crystallography in the determination of protein structure from Professor Karen Allen, one of the world’s leading crystallographers. After a one-hour classroom discussion, the students brought their crystal samples to the CIC’s X-ray laboratory for a practical demonstration of the experiment with Dr. Bacon. The students examined their crystals under a microscope, and one crystal from each group was mounted on the instrument for a unit cell determination.
Interested students have been invited to the ACA’s annual meeting, to be held in Boston at the end of July, where they will have the opportunity to present a poster and to learn more about structural biology. The program is an outreach activity of the ACA Young Scientists’ Special Interest Group, and was supported by a donation of crystallization supplies from Hampton Research.
Additional photos can be seen on the BU Chemistry Flickr site.
Professor Larry Ziegler and his group have received continued support from the NSF ($450K over 3 years) to use cutting edge spectroscopic techniques to advance understanding of supercritical fluids (SCFs) as a medium for chemical activity. Using ultrafast vibrational or rotational spectroscopic techniques, they will study the femtosecond to picosecond solvation dynamics of a range of SCF solutions as a function of density for isotherms close to the critical temperature. The insights gained will identify those solvent motions coupled to the spectroscopically tagged solutes in the femtosecond to tens of picoseconds regime providing a dynamical description of solvation in the compressible fluid regime of SCFs. Such dynamics are important to understand, because they are intimately involved in the unique microscopic solvation phenomena that give super critical fluids their interesting and useful properties. Given the very high relevance of supercritical liquids for applied chemistry on the one hand and the lack of detailed knowledge on their microscopic dynamics on the other, this research is expected to provide new and important insight into structural fluctuations and local interactions governing solvation processes and, thus, chemical dynamics.
In this tribute, Professor Scott Mohr remembers his colleague and friend, Norman Lichtin
Norman N. Lichtin, longtime member of the faculty of Boston University’s Department of Chemistry and its fifth chairman, passed away on April 30, 2012, aged 89. Norman played a major role in building the department and had a distinguished research career spanning 51 years that resulted in more than 80 publications in top-tier journals. He mentored 27 PhD graduates, 15 master’s students, and 28 post-doctoral research associates. His teaching spanned the range from undergraduate courses in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry, and a seminar on “Man and Energy,” to graduate courses in advanced organic chemistry, physical organic chemistry, photo- and radiation chemistry and chemical kinetics. More
Recently reported in PNAS, Bjoern Reinhard and his collaborator at the BU Medical School, Dr. Suryaram Gummuluru, have confirmed a unique HIV-1 DC attachment mechanism using lipoparticles with defined surface composition. The mechanism is dependent on a host-cell–derived ligand, GM3, and is a unique example of pathogen mimicry of host-cell recognition pathways that drive virus capture and dissemination in vivo. These insights provide the basis for the development of artificial virus nanoparticles with host-derived surface groups that inhibit the HIV-1 trans-dissemination pathway through dendritic cells. The virus parasite uses these dendritic cells to facilitate its dissemination, while avoiding recognition.
BU Chemistry hosted more than 100 students from the Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA) and English High School on May 4, 2012 for the fourth annual Chemistry Day. The morning long program began with a demonstration session given by BU Chemistry undergraduates and coordinated by Postdoctoral Faculty Fellow (PFF) Dr. Seann Mulcahy. The demonstration explored pH, having fun with liquid nitrogen, synthesizing nylon, and making “Elephant’s Toothpaste.” After the demonstration, students spent time in our undergraduate teaching labs performing experiments in electrochemistry of metals (a variation on a CH 101 undergraduate lab experiment), electrolysis of salt water, and identifying antioxidants using glow sticks. These experiments were coordinated by PFF Dr. Katie Frato with assistance by BUWIC (Boston University Women in Chemistry) president Sarah Soltau and undergraduates. Students also attended tours of state-of-the-art chemistry research labs, seeing major instrumentation such as NMR spectrometers and GC/MS instruments and testing a glove box. During these tours, graduate student and postdoctoral researchers also described their work and what it was like to work in a research lab. The morning was capped off with a BBQ sponsored by the department. Photos from the event can be seen at the BU Chemistry Flickr site.
BU Chemistry Day is the culmination of a semester long outreach program created by BUWIC and coordinated by Liz Hirst (BUWIC Outreach Coordinator). During the semester, 2-3 BU students visited classrooms at BCLA, English High School, and Brighton High School every other week to mentor students, assist teachers with instruction, perform demonstrations, and coordinate hands-on experiments.
BU Chemistry is grateful to all of those involved, with special thanks to:
Outreach co-directors: Seann Mulcahy and Katie Frato
BUWIC: Sarah Soltau (President) and Liz Hirst (Outreach Coordinator)
Teaching lab coordinator: Boris Bezverkhny
Undergraduate “Outreachers”: Kyle Kahveci, Will Lyon (English High); Shama Patel, Nicole Buechler, Holly Johnson, Pragya Kalla, James Priestley, Christopher Neil, Zach Bogart (BCLA); and Nick Russo, Josh Nelson, Doug Allison (Brighton High)
The article by Bjoern Reinhard, “Molding the flow of light on the nanoscale: from vortex nanogears to phase-operated plasmonic machinery” (Nanoscale, 2012, 4, 76-90; DOI: 10.1039/C1NR11406A), was amongst the top ten accessed articles from the online version of Nanoscale in February 2012. Launched in 2009, Nanoscale is a new peer reviewed journal publishing experimental and theoretical work across the breadth of nanoscience and nanotechnology.
The Reinhard Group research focuses on new optical materials and their application to interrogate fundamental life processes. They explore the interface between nanotechnology and biological systems. For an overview of current research projects, please visit their group’s website.
Until now, there has been no effective, systemic treatment for liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), the fifth most common cancer worldwide. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), Professor Scott Schaus (Chemistry) and Professor Ulla Hansen (Biology and Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry) have reported their discovery of a new protein target for chemotherapy in the treatment of liver cancer — the transcription factor LSF. LSF occurs at high levels in the tumor tissue of patients with liver cancer and is known to promote the development of cancer (oncogenesis) in studies using laboratory rodents.
The co-investigators have identified small molecules that effectively inhibit LSF cellular activity, which in turn slows the growth of the cancer. In particular, they found that one such molecule, Factor Quinolinone Inhibitor 1 (FQI1), derived from a lead compound, inhibits the ability of LSF to bind DNA both in extracts (in vitro, as determined by electrophoretic mobility shift assays) and in cells. Consistent with inhibiting LSF activity, FQI1 also eliminates the ability of LSF to turn up transcription. While FQI1 quickly causes cell death in LSF-overexpressing cells, including liver cancer cells, healthy cells are unaffected by the treatment. This phenomenon has been called oncogene addiction, where tumor cells are “addicted” to the activity of an oncogenic factor for their survival, but normal cells can do without it. This characteristic is very encouraging for use
of such compounds clinically.
Following in vitro trials, the researchers tested the efficacy of FQI1 in inhibiting liver cancer tumor growth by injecting HCC cell lines into rodent models. FQI1 was observed to significantly inhibit tumor growth with no observable side effects (general tissue cytotoxicity). These dramatic findings support the further development of LSF inhibitors as a promising new chemotherapy treatment for liver cancer.
Citation: T.J. Grant, J. A. Bishop, L.M. Christadore, G. Barot, H.G. Chin, S. Woodson, J. Kavouris, A. Siddiq, R. Gedler, X-N. Shen, J. Sherman, T. Meehan, K. Fitzgerald, S. Pradhan, L.A. Briggs, W.H. Andrews, D. Sarkar, S.E. Schaus, and U. Hansen, “Antiproliferative small-molecule inhibitors of transcription factor LSF reveal oncogene addiction to LSF in hepatocellular carcinoma,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., March 20, 2012, Vol. 109, No. 12, 4503-4508.
Professor Karen Allen, an Associate Editor of Biochemistry, has contributed to the fifth episode of the American Chemical Society’s series, ‘Publishing Your Research 101.” The episode addresses “Ethical Considerations for Authors and Reviewers.” This series interviews experts such as Professor Allen to obtain their insights on practical, real world questions and issues facing authors of research papers. Further information about this episode and the entire series can be found on the ACS Website.
The Porco Research Group has received a 4-year, $1.2 million award from the National Institutes of Health for their proposal, Chemical Synthesis of Bioactive Flavonoid and Xanthone-Derived Natural Products.
Undertaken in conjunction with biological collaborators, including Professor Tom Gilmore (BU Biology) and Dr. John Beutler of the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research, the goal of the research is to develop new chemical methodologies to enable the synthesis of bioactive flavonoid and xanthone-derived natural products that could lead to biologically active antitumor and anti-infective agents. Specifically, such agents will be useful as novel pharmacological therapies and as cytotoxic agents against both human cancers and malaria.
Their aims include total syntheses of anticancer agents such as the kuwanons and related prenylflavonoid Diels-Alder natural products as well as the bioactive tetrahydroxanthones blennolides A and B.
The award enables an exciting new research direction for Professor Porco and his collaborators involving the use of nanoparticles in organic reactions, asymmetric catalysis, and novel cycloaddition strategies.
Research Media.EU disseminates information about advances in innovation to the wider scientific, technology, and research communities. Among its focus areas is Nanotechnology and US Research.
Recently, they interviewed Professor Bjoern Reinhard about his work on Epidermal Growth Factor Receptors (EGFRs), which are important cancer biomarkers, and which Research Media has identified as an important innovation in nanotechnology.
In addition to obtaining Professor Reinhard’s insights, the article described in detail the impact of this work and profiled the Reinhard Laboratory. To download a PDF of the interview/profile, click here.