"Keck Science professors foster creative and critical thinking, which has been invaluable in my research."
Helen Kim, CMC '12, a biology major, spent summer 2011 as an Amgen Scholar in the laboratory of Dr. Stanley Fields at the University of Washington.
Her research results have been published in the March Early Edition of PNAS journal: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/03/14/1303309110.full.pdf+html?sid=e8b162f1-6387-4941-84be-ea24c7c89ad3
Paper summary: The investigators of the study utilized "deep mutational scanning," a massively parallel approach to analyze important mutations that enhance the functional activity of Ube4b. Ube4b, a mammalian ubiquitin ligase enzyme, plays a catalytic role during ubiquitination, a universal process that dictates protein quality control and turnover. Specifically, the authors identified mutant variants of Ube4b that confer specificity and exhibit increased activity in promoting the degradation of the tumor suppressor p53.
Significance: Traditional methods employed to characterize a protein's amino acid sequence to function relationship have been time- and labor-intensive. By utilizing the tools of modern genome sequencing technology, the authors of the study analyzed more than 100,000 Ube4b mutants in parallel. Recently, the upregulation of Ube4b and low p53 levels in humans have been found in malignant brain tumors. The molecular basis of Ube4b function identified in this study provides an insight into the mechanism of enzyme specificity.
Helen is currently a research technician in the Ward lab at The Scripps Research Institute. Her lab specializes in single particle electron microscopy (EM), x-ray crystallography, and other integrative biophysical techniques to study novel membrane proteins. She is involved in a collaborative effort to structurally characterize the basis of immune recognition of the HIV envelope glycoprotein. The project's long-term goal is to utilize the molecular details identified by EM to help design a structurally rational vaccine for HIV (http://chavi-id.org/).
Helen Kim '12
School: Claremont McKenna
Major: molecular biology