Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

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Logo for the Dept of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Washington University in St. Louis, MO
Logo for the Dept of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Washington University in St. Louis, MO


Student Awards and Fellowships

Thesis Examinations


Welcome to New BMB Arrivals

Research News
Obituary: John Majors, emeritus professor of biochemistry, molecular biophysics, 69

John E. Majors, PhD, professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died Jan. 10, 2018, of a heart attack. He was 69.

Majors was known for key contributions to the field of molecular biology, particularly work involving the expression of genes in yeast and viruses. He worked with a team led by Harold E. Varmus, MD, and J. Michael Bishop, MD, whose research revealing how viruses can cause cancer was honored with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1989.

You can read the rest of the obituary


Obituary: Raymond H. Wittcoff, emeritus trustee, benefactor, 96

Raymond H. “Ray” Wittcoff, an emeritus trustee of Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the School of Medicine’s National Council since 2005, died Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, at his home in Phoenix. He was 96.

Wittcoff and his wife, Roma, also an emeritus trustee and School of Medicine National Council member, have been longtime supporters of Washington University, giving generously of their time, expertise and resources.

You can read the rest of the obituary here.

Dr. Jim Janetka’s work featured in The Source

Congratulations to Jim Janetka, whose work on UTI treatments was featured in The Source.

Dr. Janetka's research facilitated a new study that may prevent the common problem of recurrent urinary tract infections with the use of a molecular decoy that targets e. coli bacteria.

You can read more about the work in the The Source by clicking here.

Dr. Jim Janetka’s Paper with Dr. David Sibley Highlighted
Congratulations to Drs. Jim Janetka and Amarendar Maddirala, whose publication was selected as the journal cover of the most recent issue of J. Med. Chem, and was the topic of a recent viewpoint entitled “Novel Molecules To Treat Chronic Central Nervous System Toxoplasmosis” by Sandhya Kortagere.

You can read the viewpoint by clicking here (, and the referenced publication by Dr. Jim Janetka, “Inhibition of Calcium Dependent Protein Kinase 1 (CDPK1) by Pyrazolopyrimidine Analogs Decreases Establishment and Reoccurrence of Central Nervous System Disease by Toxoplasma gondii” by clicking here (

Galburt Lab publication featured on the Saccharomyces Genome Database (SGD)

One of the Galburt Lab’s publications was recently featured on the Saccharomyces Genome Database (SGD) website.

You can view the article here (, the abstract here (, and the piece from SGD here (

Michael Kinch – Cutting NIH budget could cripple drug development

A proposal to slash funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) could severely impair the development of new, life-saving drugs, according to a new analysis by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

NIH funding supports the early research needed to develop new, innovative drugs. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget calls for cutting the NIH budget by 21 percent, or about $7.2 billion.

“NIH funding is instrumental in the early research needed to develop FDA-approved medicines,” said Kinch, also a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics. “Our data suggest that the development of newer drugs is becoming even more dependent on NIH funding.”

You can view the article in its entirety by clicking here.

Student Awards and Fellowships
Congratulations to Min Kyung Shinn for being selected as one of two 2017 Elson Fellows in honor of Dr. Elliot Elson

Ms. Min Kyung Shinn received her B.A. in physics and chemistry from Bard College in 2014. After graduation, Ms. Shinn joined the PhD program at Washington University in Saint Louis in the department of physics and joined the laboratory of Dr. Tim Lohman. In 2016, Ms. Shinn received her M.A. in physics.

Ms. Shinn is currently working on two projects in the laboratory of Dr. Tim Lohman. The first project involves the role of the intrinsically disordered C-Terminal tails of the SSB protein in cooperativity and interactions with other proteins. Her second project involves a study of the dynamics of the nuclease domain of the recombination helicase/nuclease, RecBCD.  

 Congratulations to Drake Jensen for being select as one of two 2017 Elson Fellows in honor of Dr. Elliot Elson 

Mr. Drake Jensen received his B.A. in Chemistry and B.S. in Biology from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2013. During this time, he began pursuing research in equilibrium and kinetic studies of Calmodulin target recognition. After graduation he continued research in the same lab and completed a M.S. in Chemistry in 2015. He joined the Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Washington University the same year as part of the Computational & Molecular Biophysics program.

Mr. Jensen is pursuing his thesis work under the mentorship Dr. Eric Galburt in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. Here, he evaluates mycobacterial transcription initiation mechanisms using ensemble and single-molecule biophysical methods. His work is focused on two essential mycobacterial RNA Polymerase- and DNA-binding transcription factor proteins termed CarD and RbpA. Specifically, he addresses how each factor is implicated in mycobacterial stress responses and possible links to antibiotic efficacy currently used to treat tuberculosis. Following graduation, Drake plans to pursue post-doctoral positions with an interest in understanding mechanisms of molecular pathogenesis through a biophysical lens.

Congratulations to Arthur Sletton for receiving the 2017 David F. Silbert Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

The 2016-2017 David F. Silbert Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award goes to Mr. Arthur Sletton for his work in the 2016 Fall Human Body course. Mr. Sletton was nominated by Drs. Kari Allen, Glenn Conroy and Jane Phillips-Conroy. Mr. Sletton exemplified the spirit of this award through his dedication and lasting contribution to the course, the course instructors, and the students in the class.

Mr. Arthur Sletton is currently an MSTP student in the Molecular Cell Biology Graduate Program. He is pursuing his thesis work under the mentorship of Dr. Dan Ory in the Department Internal Medicine. Dr. Ory’s laboratory is interested in the molecular mechanisms of metabolic stress. Through independent genetic screens they have discovered several loci that are required for cellular responses to oxidative stress. Mr. Sletton’s research focuses on one of these loci, small nucleolar hosting gene 3 (snhg3), which encodes the intronic snoRNA U17. Disruption of U17 expression protects cells from apoptosis induced by palmitic acid and hydrogen peroxide. Preliminary data indicates that this protection may be conferred by altered mitochondrial metabolism. Ongoing work seeks to understand how U17 regulates oxidative stress and mitochondrial physiology at the functional, morphologic, and biochemical levels.

Mr. Sletton was awarded a cash prize of $250 and was recognized at the annual awards luncheon on December 8th.

For more information on Arthur Sletten, please visit his profile page here:

Congratulations to Divya Natarajan for receiving the 2017 David F. Silbert Summer Fellowship Award

During the summer of 2017, Divya Natarajan, a second-year medical student, was the recipient of the David F. Silbert Summer Fellowship Award.
Supported by this award, Ms. Natarajan performed research with Drs. Rohit Pappu and Ammon Posey in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.  Her projected was entitled “Toward Rational Design of Huntington's Disease Therapeutics Using Profilin as a Model of Huntingtin Aggregation Suppression Via Multivalent Interactions”. (More …)


Thesis Examinations
Nicholas Dietrich defended his PhD thesis entitled "Characterization of ZIP genes responsible for zinc homeostasis in C. Elegans" on August 31, 2017. Nick was in the Biochemistry program and completed his thesis in the laboratory of Dr. Kerry Kornfeld. 
John Robinson defended his PhD thesis entitled "Antiviral Nucleoside Inhibitors of Leishmania RNA Virus 1: Discovery and Mechanism" on June 23, 2017.  John was in the Biochemistry program and completed his thesis work in the laboratory of Dr. Stephen Beverley. 
2017 Department Holiday Party

On December 16th, 2017, the BMB Department celebrated its annual Holiday Party at the Saint Louis Zoo. Everyone enjoyed the Zoo Wild Lights display, great food and a game of Rudolf the red-nose reindeer.

Click on the following to viemore photos or a slideshow of the photos taken at the event.

24th Annual Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology (BBSB) Retreat

The Annual BBSB retreat was held on October 20th and 21st, 2017 at the Cedar Creek Conference Center. This year the keynote speakers were: Drs. Andrea Soranno and Rui Zhang, Assistant Professors in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. Dr. Soranno presented on "Single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy of intrinsically disordered proteins". Dr. Zhang presented on "What can you do with cryo-EM". Friday evening concluded with a poster session. In addition to the two keynote speakers, various students presented talks on their research during the day on Friday and Saturday. 

Best Talk Winner:
Anne Robinson - Jeff Henderson's lab
Best Student Poster:
Yerdos Ordabayev - Tim Lohman's lab
Best Postdoc Poster:
John Robinson - Steve Beverley's lab

Eclipse Party

On Monday, August 21st, 2017, Jayma invited members of the BMB Department out to her house to get a good view of the total eclipse of the sun.

Click on the following to view more photos or a slideshow of the photos taken at the event.

BMB Department Welcomes...
Vishnu Damalanka - Postdoctoral Research Associate joined Dr. Jim Janetka's lab.
Meisheng Ma - Postdoctoral Research joined Dr. Rui Zhang's lab.
Jon Helander - Postdoctoral Research Associate joined Dr. Jim Janetka's lab.
Maureen Highkin - Senior Research Technician joined Dr. Jim Janetka's lab.
Katelyn Moeder - Research Technician joined Dr. Greg Bowman's lab.
Michael Prinsen - Staff Scientist for the High Throughput Screening Core.
Research Awards

Michael Greenberg, PhD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics received a 2018 CIMED P&F award from the Center for the Investigation of Membrane Excitability Diseases for his work entitled “Effects of Mechanical Forces on Cardiac Excitability in Heart Disease”.

Michael Greenberg, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, along with Kory Lavine, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, and Christopher M. Sturgeon, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, received a 2018 Center of Regenerative Medicine (CRM) seed grant for their work entitled “Leveraging macrophage ontogeny to engineer human cardiac tissues to model cardiomyopathy”.

Jim Janetka, PhD, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and Chemistry Adjunct received a two year, Career Catalyst Research (CCR) Competitive Renewal Grant Program award from Susan G. Komen for the Cure for his research entitled “Multifunctional inhibitors of MET/RON signaling and cross-talk with EGFR/HER2”. The work is focused on developing new drugs to treat breast cancer by dual targeting of the tumor and its microenvironment.
Elson Fellowship Endowment Fund

The colleagues, friends and trainees of Dr. Elliot L. Elson have expressed a wish to establish an endowed education and training fund to honor him and his extraordinary impact on both the Washington University School of Medicine and molecular biophysics. His teaching and research contributions have been far-reaching and numerous.

The Elliot L. Elson Education Training Endowment will be used to support opportunities for students and the very best post-doctoral trainees in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics.

If you would like to help contribute to this endowment fund, please
click here.
Upcoming Events for the Spring:
(check BMB website for current information)

February 6, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Frederick Hughson
Princeton University
"Chaperoning SNARE Assembly to control Membrane Fusion"

February 8, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Juan Luis Mendoza
Stanford University
"Expanding the functional landscape of cytokines through protein engineering"

February 13, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Andrew Carter
Medical Research Council
"Transporting cargo over long distances: insights from dynein/dynactin structures"

February 15, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Jean Chung
University of California, Berkley
"Molecular mechanisms of signaling proteins on membrane surfaces probed by diffusional dynamics"

February 27, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Gerald Dorn
Washington University School of Medicine
"Mitofusion agonists - from peptides to small molecules to drug"

March 6, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Daniel Rosenbaum
UT Southwestern Medical Center
"Membrane protein conformational changes in human physiology and disease"

March 13, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Samanthan Harris
The University of Arizonia Health Sciences

March 20, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Anna Loveland
The University of Massachusetts
"Ensemble cryo-EM reveals ribosome dynamics"

March 27, 2018
BMB Seminar - Cori Lecture
Dr. Tania Baker
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

April 3, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Tom Record
University of Wisconsin-Madison

April 10, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Jianmin Cui
Washington University in Saint Louis
"Allosteric gating of a CA2+-activated potassium channel"

April 17, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Weikai Li
Washington University School of Medicine
"Structural basis of vitamin K antagonism"

April 24, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Amir Aharoni
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

May 1, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Jens Gundlach
University of Washington

May 8, 2018
BMB Seminar
Dr. Enrico Di Cera
Saint Louis University
"Interplay between conformational selection and zymogen activation in the trypsin fold"

Latest Publications:

Halstead AM, Kapadia CD, Bolzenius J, Chu CE, Schriefer A, Wartman LD, Bowman GR, Arora VK. Bladder cancer associated mutations in <i>RXRA</i> activate peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors to drive urothelial proliferation. Elife. 2017 Nov 16;6. PMID: 29143738 [Epub link]

Niu H, Fujiwara H, di Martino O, Hadwiger G, Frederick TE, Menéndez-Gutiérrez MP, Ricote M, Bowman GR, Welch JS. Endogenous retinoid X receptor ligands in mouse hematopoietic cells. Sci Signal. 2017 Oct 31;10(503). PMID: 29089448 [Epub link]

Patrick GJ, Fang L, Schaefer J, Singh S, Bowman GR, Wencewicz TA. Mechanistic Basis for ATP-Dependent Inhibition of Glutamine Synthetase by Tabtoxinine-β-lactam. Biochemistry. 2017 Oct 31. PMID: 29039929 [Epub link]

Hart KM, Moeder KE, Ho CMW, Zimmerman MI, Frederick TE, Bowman GR. Designing small molecules to target cryptic pockets yields both positive and negative allosteric modulators. PLoS One. 2017 Jun 1;12(6):e0178678. eCollection 2017. PMID: 28570708 [Epub link]

Stodola, JL, Burgers, PMJ. Mechanism of Lagging-Strand DNA Replication in Eukaryotes. DNA Replication. 2018 Jan 23. pp. 117-133. [Epub link

Bartels PL, Stodola JL, Burgers PMJ, Barton JK. A Redox Role for the [4Fe4S] Cluster of Yeast DNA Polymerase δ. J Am Chem Soc. 2017 Nov 22. PMID: 29166001 [Epub Link]

Kochenova OV, Bezalel-Buch R, Tran P, Makarova AV, Chabes A, Burgers PM, Shcherbakova PV. Yeast DNA polymerase ζ maintains consistent activity and mutagenicity across a wide range of physiological dNTP concentrations. Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 Feb 17;45(3):1200-1218. PMID: 28180291 [Epub link]

Stark BC, Lanier MH, Cooper JA. CARMIL family proteins as multidomain regulators of actin-based motility. Mol Biol Cell. 2017 Jul 1;28(13):1713-1723. PMID: 28663287 [Epub link]

Stewart-Hutchinson PJ, Szasz TP, Jaeger ER, Onken MD, Cooper JA, Morley SC. Technical Advance: New in vitro method for assaying the migration of primary B cells using an endothelial monolayer as substrate. J Leukoc Biol. 2017 Sep;102(3):941-948. Epub 2017 Jun 21. PMID: 28637896 [Epub link]

Zhou JY, Szasz TP, Stewart-Hutchinson PJ, Sivapalan J, Todd EM, Deady LE, Cooper JA, Onken MD, Morley SC. L-Plastin promotes podosome longevity and supports macrophage motility. Mol Immunol. 2016 Oct;78:79-88. Epub 2016 Sep 7. PMID: 27614263 [Epub link]

Wang H, Shu Q, Rempel DL, Frieden C, Gross ML. Understanding Curli Amyloid-Protein Aggregation by Hydrogen-Deuterium Exchange and Mass Spectrometry. Int J Mass Spectrom. 2017 Sep;420:16-23. Epub 2016 Oct 11. PMID: 29056864 [Epub link]

Wang H, Rempel DL, Giblin DE, Frieden C, Gross ML. Peptide-level interactions between proteins and small-molecule drug candidates by HDX-MS, PLIMSTEX and modified SUPREX: the example of ApoE3. Anal Chem. 2017 Sep 13. PMID: 28901129 [Epub link]

Tomko EJ, Fishburn J, Hahn S, Galburt EA. TFIIH generates a six-base-pair open complex during RNAP II transcription initiation and start-site scanning. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2017 Nov 6. PMID: 29106413 [Epub link]

Spaulding CN, Klein RD, Ruer S, Kau AL, Schreiber HL, Cusumano ZT, Dodson KW, Pinkner JS, Fremont DH, Janetka JW, Remaut H, Gordon JI, Hultgren SJ. Selective depletion of uropathogenic E. coli from the gut by a FimH antagonist. Nature. 2017 Jun 22;546(7659):528-532. Epub 2017 Jun 14. PMID: 28614296 [Epub link]

Owusu BY, Thomas S, Venukadasula P, Han Z, Janetka JW, Galemmo RA Jr, Klampfer L. Targeting the tumor-promoting microenvironment in MET-amplified NSCLC cells with a novel inhibitor of pro-HGF activation. Oncotarget. 2017 May 29;8(38):63014-63025. eCollection 2017 Sep 8. PMID: 28968967 [Epub link]

Rutaganira FU, Barks J, Dhason MS, Wang Q, Lopez MS, Long S, Radke JB, Jones NG, Maddirala AR, Janetka JW, El Bakkouri M, Hui R, Shokat KM, Sibley LD. Inhibition of calcium dependent protein kinase 1 (CDPK1) by pyrazolopyrimidine analogs decreases establishment and reoccurrence of central nervous system disease by Toxoplasma gondii. J Med Chem. 2017 Sep 21. PMID: 28933846 [Epub link]

McCune, B.T., Tang, W., Lu, J., Eaglesham, J.B., Thorne, L., Mayer, A.E., Condiff, E., Nice, T.J., Goodfellow, I., Krezel, A.M., Virgin, H.W. Noroviruses co-opt the function of host proteins VAPA and VAPB for replication via a phenylalanine–phenylalanine- acidic-tract-motif mimic in nonstructural viral protein NS1/2. mBio, 2017. 8(4). [Epub link]

Li S, Shen GM, Li W. Intramembrane thiol oxidoreductases: evolutionary convergence and structural controversy. Biochemistry. 2017 Oct 24. PMID: 29064673 [Epub link]

Nguyen B, Ordabayev Y, Sokoloski JE, Weiland E, Lohman TM. Large domain movements upon UvrD dimerization and helicase activation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Oct 30. pii: 201712882. PMID: 29087333 [Epub link]

Tomko EJ, Lohman TM. Modulation of Escherichia coli UvrD Single-Stranded DNA Translocation by DNA Base Composition. Biophys J. 2017 Oct 3;113(7):1405-1415. PMID: 28978435 [Epub link]

Kozlov AG, Shinn MK, Weiland EA, Lohman TM. Glutamate promotes SSB protein-protein Interactions via intrinsically disordered regions. J Mol Biol. 2017 Sep 1;429(18):2790-2801. Epub 2017 Aug 3. PMID: 28782560 [Epub link]

Ballante F, Reddy DR, Zhou NJ, Marshall GR. Structural insights of SmKDAC8 inhibitors: Targeting Schistosoma epigenetics through a combined structure-based 3D QSAR, in vitro and synthesis strategy. Bioorg Med Chem. 2017 Apr 1; 25(7): 2105-2132. PMID: 28259528 [Epub link]

Marshall GR, Ballante F. Limiting Assumptions in the Design of Peptidomimetics. Drug Dev Res. 2017 Sep;78(6): 245-267. doi: 10.1002/ddr.21406. Epub 2017 Sep 6. PMID: 28875546 [Epub Link]

Gill K, Macdonald-Obermann JL, Pike LJ. Epidermal growth factor receptors containing a single tyrosine in their C-terminal tail bind different effector molecules and are signaling-competent. J Biol Chem. 2017 Oct 26. PMID: 29074618 [Epub link]

Soranno, A, Zosel, F, Hofmann, H. Internal Friction in an intrinsically disordered protein-Comparing Rouse-like models with experiments. J Chem Phys. 2018 Jan; 148 (12). [Epub Link]
R Zhang, J Roostalu, T Surrey, E Nogales.  Structural insight into TPX2-stimulated microtubule assembly. eLife, 2017; [Epub link]

Copyright © 2018 Washington University School of Medicine - Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Dept., All rights reserved.

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