Biology Graduate Student Publishes Article in PNAS

On February 27, 2014 by Grad Forum

drew_thumbnailThird-year biology graduate student Andrew (Drew) Bridges thinks a lot about cell division. Specifically, how the genetic and molecular components of one cell are organized when that cell becomes two. A class of proteins called septins help dictate this spatial distribution. According to Bridges, “Septins, the family of proteins studied in [Professor Amy Gladfelter’s] lab, are essential for the cell division process. In short, septins form barriers that help partition specific molecules into each cell during division.” He continues, “We [have] determined how septins transition from small subunits into the large structures that are important for cell division.”

This work by Bridges and his advisor Gladfelter—along with their colleagues Huaiying Zhang and Patricia Occhipinti of the Dartmouth Department of Biological Sciences, and Shalin B. Mehta and Tomomi Tani of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts—was recently published in the February 11 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The manuscript details the mechanisms by which septins come in close enough proximity to join together and form multi-component structures called filaments.

When asked about the broader implications of this work, Bridges says, “In the last ten years or so, septins have been increasingly implicated in cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, and microbial pathogenesis. A thorough understanding of the basic properties of proteins functioning in healthy cells is necessary for understanding and targeting their misregulation in diseased states. This was our motivation for further describing these fundamental properties of the septin proteins and we hope that drug chemists will build upon our and other groups work to develop drugs that influence septin function.”

Many of the experiments in this manuscript were performed at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Despite not researching marine organisms themselves, “Amy Gladfelter and many other researchers from across the globe move their labs to Woods Hole in the summer to conduct interdisciplinary research,” explains Bridges. “The biggest benefits of traveling to Woods Hole in the summer are access to world class microscopes and other enthusiastic researchers. These experiences have been invaluable for my training because I have been exposed to many techniques not available at Dartmouth.”

Bridges anticipates graduating in 2016 or 2017. As for life post-Dartmouth, he plans to do an academic postdoctoral fellowship, and then “pursue a career in academia or industry.”

by Jeanine Amacher

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