Research Highlight: Dr. Johann, Casey Cooper, Matt Bryant, & Naomi Hogan

by kmainsah on October 5, 2019

Some of our fellow RC Maroons were recently published in The Protein Journal. Dr. Johann and 3 students, Casey Cooper (Wojtera while at RC), Matt Bryant, and Naomi Hogan, published their paper “Investigations of Amino Acids in the 5-Formyltetrahydrofolate Binding Site of 5,10-Methenyltetrahydrofolate Synthetase from Mycoplasma pneumonia”. RC Research had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Johann and Naomi Hogan about this accomplishment and their research.

Enzymes are biological catalysts; they speed up chemical reactions.  Our work focused on structure/function relationships in 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate synthetase (MTHFS).  This enzyme is important in that it converts a storage form of tetrahydrofolate into a useful form.  Tetrahydrofolates are typically made in the human body starting with the vitamin folic acid.  In some cancer treatments, this process is blocked to semi-selectively kill cancer cells.  Normal cells are then rescued using the storage form of folate that the enzyme MTHFS helps change into a useful form.

Enzymes are made up of smaller units called amino acids.  We removed specific amino acids in the enzyme MTHFS and replaced them with other amino acids.  We then studied if the enzyme worked as well as it does with the natural amino acid.  This helped us to determine the role that those amino acids play in the function of the enzyme. 

—Dr. Johann, Chemistry

“Doing research over the summer gave me the opportunity to see more realistically how a lab functions.  It gave me the chance to determine whether research is the right choice for me when pursuing a career. There is a lot more effort that goes into the process than publications show, as well as a lot of failures before a success. Being published is a very marketable achievement. It will help me secure a career with an employer that values research and all of the trial-and-error that goes into it. I greatly appreciate Dr. Johann giving me this golden opportunity to enhance my future career.”

—Naomi Hogan

Here is the link to their research if you would like to check it out. Congratulations to our fellow maroons!!!

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