Alejandro Rondon Ortiz, a Biology PhD student in the Wolozin Lab, received the 2024 Brenton R. Lutz Award

In his study, Alejandro investigated the protein interaction networks (PINs) from the autophagy receptor SQSTM1/p62. SQSTM1/p62 regulates proteostasis by degrading cellular cargo, including protein aggregates. He employed proximity labeling and proteomics to dissect SQSTM1/p62 PINs under various conditions and revealed novel interacting proteins.

Using these approaches, he demonstrated that dysregulation of proteostasis, induced by small molecules or tau aggregates, shifts SQSTM1/p62 interactors towards stress-associated PINs. This shift is also observed in proteostasis-related diseases like neurodegeneration. These findings highlight the adaptive nature of SQSTM1 PINs and also offer PINs datasets, which can be potentially exploited to explore novel therapeutic targets.

This award provides support for PhD candidates conducting research in neurobiology or neuroscience and have made significant contributions to their field. Brenton R. Lutz was the first person to receive an MD/PhD at Boston University, receiving his PhD in 1916. He later became a Professor and Chairman of BU’s Department of Biology. Dr. Lutz also gave the first University Lecture at BU on December 11, 1950 “The Living Blood Vessels.”

Congratulations, Alejandro!