By: Adam Tseng
Chances are, someone in your life has been affected by a chronic disease like cancer or Alzheimer’s. Many of these illnesses wear away at critical body organs by causing cells to die or divide uncontrollably. Understanding how to regulate the life cycles of cells could uncover ways to rapidly eliminate a patient’s cancer cells or speed up normal cell division, repairing damage to the patient’s organs. My research focused on two important proteins that help regulate the cell cycle: Fas-associated death domain (FADD) and Phosphoprotein enriched in astrocytes, 15kDa (PEA-15). PEA-15 is a protein found primarily in the central nervous system, a group of organs, including the brain and the spinal cord, that coordinates important body functions such as breathing and reflexes. When PEA-15 binds to FADD, the latter is prevented from activating a third protein called caspase-8, preventing cell death, while the opposite is true when the proteins are not bound. This binding is facilitated by the presence of phosphate groups at specific points on the PEA-15 molecule. To identify these points, the three-dimensional structures of PEA-15 and FADD must be studied. In my project, I aimed to make pure samples of the two proteins in preparation for their structural analysis. Bacteria were grown and used to produce the proteins, which were then isolated and purified using a filtration method known as column chromatography. In the end, I successfully created pure PEA-15 and FADD samples, which may eventually lead to better cancer and degenerative disease treatments.
This research was conducted as a part of the Partners in Science Research Program. To read more, click here for a full pdf of Adam's formal research paper about his project!