Boston University Professor Receives NIH Award to Study Histatin 5

in Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Health & Medicine, News Releases
December 15th, 2008

Contact: Laura Mackin, 617-638-4888 |

(Boston) – Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine (BUGSDM) Professor and Chair of Periodontology and Oral Biology Dr. Frank Oppenheim was awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his research titled, “Microbicidal Salivary Histidine-Rich Proteins,” on November 25.

The four-year grant totals $1,543,752. Dr. Oppenheim will serve as Principal Investigator and BUGSDM Assistant Professor Dr. Eva Helmerhorst, BUGSDM Assistant Professor Dr. Erdjan Salih, and Boston University School of Medicine Associate Professor of Gastroenterology Dr. Gwynneth Offner will serve as Co-investigators.

The goal of the research is to establish the cascade of processes responsible for the antifungal activity of histatin 5, providing the basis for the design of innovative antimycotics.

“Work in our laboratory has shown that fluorescently tagged histatin 5 enters both blastospores and germ tubes,” said Dr. Oppenheim. “These observations have raised questions regarding the crucial subsequent steps in the antifungal process. We have obtained evidence that histatins associate intracellularly with mitochondria based on co-localization studies, have found that histatins directly affect cellular and mitochondrial respiration, and have shown that histatins induce the formation of oxygen radicals which cause cell death.” Dr. Oppenheim continued, “Observations from other groups have identified isolated events in the multi-step killing mechanism of histatin 5, but the sequence of events remains elusive.”

“Dr. Oppenheim is very deserving of this award,” said BUGSDM Dean Jeffrey Hutter. “It is wonderful to see him recognized by the NIH for his innovative science.”

The mission of Boston University School of Dental Medicine is to provide excellent education to dental professionals throughout their careers; to shape the future of dental medicine and dental education through research; to offer excellent health care services to the community; to participate in community activities; and to foster a respectful and supportive environment.

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