Dr. John Samuelson Receives Research Grant

March 26, 2013

Mizutani Foundation Grant-200Dr. John Samuelson, Professor in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, was recently awarded a research grant of $30,000 from the Mizutani Foundation for Glycoscience.

Dr. Samuelson is working with Dr. Phillips Robbins, Professor in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, and Post-doctoral Associate Guy Bushkin on the proposal, “Roles for β-1,3-glucan in Oocyst Walls of Toxoplasma and Eimeria.”

The diagnostic and infectious stages of Toxoplasma (cause of disseminated infections in fetuses and people with AIDS) and Eimeria (a $100,000,000 problem for the poultry industry) have a two-layered wall. Dr. Samuelson, Dr. Robbins, and Bushkin recently published experiments in mBIO—the online journal for the American Society for Microbiology—showing the inner layer of the oocyst walls is a porous scaffold composed of fibrils of β-1,3-glucan. Similar fibers are a major component of fungal walls, and inhibitors of the glucan synthase are important anti-fungal drugs. These anti-fungal drugs also inhibit the formation of the oocyst walls of the parasites. Proteins in the Toxoplasma and Eimeria walls are similar to each other but are unlike those of fungi or mycobacteria.

The grant from the Mizutani Foundation for Glycoscience will fund experiments to examine how the two-layered oocyst wall, which contains β-1,3-glucan and acid-fast lipids, is assembled. The applied science question is whether recombinant oocyst wall proteins might be used as a vaccine against these parasites.

“The Mizutani award is the only international award in glycobiology so we are very pleased to be one of the recipients this year,” said Dr. Samuelson. “This award will help us understand the role of parasite walls in the pathogenesis of Toxoplasma and Eimeria in two important ways. First, it will enable us to produce parasites in animal models, as walled forms cannot be grown in culture. Second, we will then be able to biochemically dissect these walls and so reveal the parts—proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids—that are critical for their construction.”

“Congratulations to Dr. Samuelson for receiving the Mizutani Foundation for Glycoscience research grant,” said Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter. “His project underscores the commitment to research we cultivate at the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine.”

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