Category: Allen, Karen
Professor Karen Allen is leading the HAD Bridge Project of the NIH U54 award to the University of Illinois entitled “Collaborative Center for an Enzyme Function Initiative,” ($25 million over 4 years, John Gerlt, PI). Known as “GLUE Grants,” these prestigious awards provide resources to currently funded scientists to form research teams to tackle complex biomedical problems that are beyond the means of any one research group. This consortium will facilitate the discovery of in vitro enzymatic and in vivo metabolic/physiological functions of unknown enzymes discovered in genome projects. The consortium is organized around five Bridging Projects and seven Cores. Professor Allen and her collaborator, Professor Debra Dunaway-Mariano, University of New Mexico, were invited to lead the HAD Bridge Project based on their 15 years of investigations on the chemical and catalytic mechanisms of the phosphotransferases in the haloalkanoic acid dehalogenase (HAD) superfamily of proteins (“Mechanism and Function in HAD Phosphotransferases,” NIH R01 GM061099. Their work has successfully uncovered and confirmed the structural determinants of substrate specificity in all three subfamilies of the superfamily and are using this knowledge to predict the substrates for enzymes of unknown function, identifying the associated metabolic pathways of at least six members from various bacterial species. The HAD efforts will be greatly extended, enhanced, and enabled by the other Cores and Bridging Projects of the consortium, including the Protein Core, the EN and AH Bridges, Sequence/Genome Analysis Core, Microbiology Core, Computation Core, and the Structure Core. In turn, the HAD Bridge Project, will afford comprehensive kinetic and mechanistic expertise to provide test cases for and utilize the facilities and expertise of the Cores.
Karen Allen research reported in Nature solves how the enzyme acetoacetate decarboxylase (AADase) works in cell environment
Professor Karen Allen, an internationally renown crystallographer in the Department of Chemistry and her colleagues, BU graduate student Meng-Chiao Ho and post-doctoral associate Jean-Francois Menetret, and Hiro Tsuruta of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource of the National Accelerator Laboratory, have published a paper in Nature (on-line May 21) entitled “The origin of the electrostatic perturbation in acetoacetate decarboxylase.”
Karen Allen, a distinguished research scientist in biochemistry and structural biology has joined the Department of Chemistry. Most recently on the faculty of the Boston University Medical School, she has made seminal contributions to the understanding of protein structure and function through X-ray diffraction and chemical kinetic studies.
Professor Allen’s training spans the fields of biology (B.S. in Biology, Tufts University), biochemistry (Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Brandeis University), and protein structure determination (Postdoctoral Fellow with Greg Petsko, MIT). Hallmarks of her research are the ability to select protein targets of fundamental biological significance; carry out mechanistic enzymological studies that characterize a protein’s function; and through X-ray crystallographic investigations, elucidate the role of the protein’s structure in determining its function. Professor Allen extends her structural and functional analysis across families and superfamilies of proteins, providing insights into protein evolution that often reveal surprising links between proteins that are structurally similar but functionally disparate or vice versa.
In her pursuit of insights that come from interdisciplinary research, Professor Allen collaborates both within the Department of Chemistry (with Professors Liu and Whitty), as well as with other departments such as Biology (Professor Dean Tolan) and Biomedical Engineering (Professor Sandor Vajda). She is a member of Boston University’s Cell and Molecular Biology (CMBB) Program and the Bioinformatics Graduate Programs.
Professor Allen is a leader of the American Chemical Society, where she has served as Program Chair for the Biological Chemistry Division and is currently an Associate Editor of its prestigious journal, Biochemistry.
To learn more about the work of Professor Allen and her group, please click here.