Congratulations to Chris Audu, a fifth year student in the Mierke Lab (MD-PHD), who was one of four winners of the Graduate Poster Session held recently at the Top of the Hop! In addition to winning a poster award, Chris also won the award for Community Service. Enjoy your winnings, Chris! (Read on for a summary of Audu’s poster.)
How can we reduce the number of long-term kidney rejections, due to BK viral infections that occur after kidney-transplant surgery? The answer may lie in how the BK virus uses its coat protein, VP1, to adhere to kidney cells. We know that BK VP1 uses a cell surface glycan as its receptor when binding to mammalian cells. We also know that the receptor can interact with a groove found between the BC and HI loops on VP1. Hence, our work has focused on developing a smaller protein construct containing the BC/HI loops from VP1 and using this as a research amenable scaffold mimicking the external binding properties of BK virus.
We have been able to show, using techniques such as flow cytometry, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, circular dichroism and in vitro fluorescent cell assays, that our protein construct is viable as an adequate mimic of BK VP1 binding activity. Currently, we are using this construct as a screening tool to identify and subsequently synthesize novel small molecules that can competitively inhibit BK virus from cells and hence, limit infection. We are excited about the research trajectory and are hopeful of finding a possible effective drug hit against this debilitating virus especially given that there is currently no adequate therapeutic.
Summary by Chris Audu