Volume 1  |  Issue 2  |  2019


We invite you to explore the second edition of the CBSD Quarterly Courier! Through this issue, we highlight the recent graduate recruitment event, report marks of achievements and note upcoming opportunities for engagement. Each quarter, we will continue to highlight a different CBSD core facility and research project, and introduce you to one of the many talented students mentored by CBSD faculty. We will keep you updated on publications from CBSD researchers and their success in garnering extramural grant support. If you have suggestions for content, simply reply to this email or connect with any one of the CBSD team members. We look forward to connecting!

In this issue

(you can use these links to skip ahead!)
Emily Osterli, Graduate Student in Ekaterina Voronina Lab
Trey Patton, Graduate Student in Philippe Diaz Lab
Image of Big Sky Breakout group. Photo contributed by: Dr. Erica Woodahl
Image of snowshoeing group. Photo contributed by: Dr. Howard D. Beall

Interdisciplinary Graduate Recruitment Weekend

Last month, the programs affiliated with the Molecular and Biomedical Sciences (MBS) and Department of Chemistry hosted 22 prospective graduate students from around the nation. On Friday, Feb. 15, the recruits first met with faculty members to discuss program curriculum and their respective research. Then, they attended a poster session in which 27 current MBS and Chemistry graduate students presented. Saturday was well spent with highlighting what the city of Missoula and the surrounding area had to offer as well as fostering a sense of camaraderie. This year, in addition to snowshoeing at Lolo Pass, recruits were offered the option of participating in the Big Sky Breakout. You will be happy to know, the group of six made it out with five minutes to spare! Programs are finalizing their applicant decisions, so we will be sharing the matriculation rates in an upcoming issue of the CBSD Quarterly Courier.

Featured Core Facility: Small Molecule X-ray Diffraction Core (SMXDC)

Under the leadership of Dr. Orion Berryman, CBSD’s Small Molecule X-ray Diffraction Core (SMXDC) has become a competitive, regional facility serving Principal Investigators (PIs) from Montana, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Wisconsin. In the Small Molecule X-ray diffractionpast year, the facility has evaluated over 500 samples with over 175 data sets collected on the Bruker D8 Venture Duo. The instrument sports two X-ray sources (copper and molybdenum) enabling the facility to select appropriate data collection strategies for diverse compounds such as natural products, transition metal enzyme mimics, uranium clusters, organocatalysts, and metal-organic frameworks. The core provides support, expertise, and infrastructure to researchers who use X-ray crystallography as a tool to determine the three-dimensional atomic structures of organic and inorganic molecules.

The SMXDC provides a resource for training, education, and consultation in X-ray crystallography techniques to assist individuals of any experience level to initiate and complete an X-ray diffraction experiment. Inherently, this ties to the University of Montana’s mission:

The University of Montana transforms lives by providing a high-quality and accessible education and by generating world-class research and creative scholarship in an exceptional place. 

On a more granular level, the SMXDC is instrumental in meeting Priority #2 - Drive ExcellSmall Molecule X-ray Diffractionence and Innovation in Teaching, Learning, and Research of the University of Montana’s Priorities for Action. The Core places emphasis on outreach and teaching by hosting multiple camps in collaboration with UM’s SpectrUM and We Are Montana in the Classroom. Outreach activities so far have brought microscopes and crystals on the road, included 3D printing, and been integrated into Chemistry 122 – Introduction to General Chemistry Lab and Chemistry 222 – Organic Chemistry laboratory.

The NIH-CoBRE primarily supports CBSD's SMXDC with additional funding provided by UM’s VPRCS. To enhance the sustainability of the Core, it has operated as a recharge facility with an established fee structure. A fee table for SMXDC service is available online. As a reminder from our January issue, vouchers are provided by the VPRCS and CBSD to support users who are unable to provide funding for their use of core facilities to acquire preliminary data that leads to a future publication or grant application. Staff and students from individual research laboratories are encouraged to consult with Dr. Orion Berryman about how core resources can advance their research programs.

To read the full highlight of the SMXDC, please visit the CBSD website.

CoBRE Junior Investigator: Philippe DiazImage of Dr. Philippe Diaz

Simply stated, Dr. Philippe Diaz’s research focus is drug discovery. Dr. Diaz’s approach is based on the design and development of small molecules modulating multiple targets or inhibiting the degradation of endogenous molecules exhibiting polypharmacology. Polypharmacology is the action of a molecule on multiple targets or disease pathways. A polypharmacological approach aims to understand and optimize the unknown biological activities for existing small molecules such as cannabinoids or retinoic acid. Dr. Diaz believes that drugs with multiple targets provide a superior therapeutic effect compared to ligands with a single target in the treatment of complex diseases and disorders, such as pain or itching. Dr. Diaz’s research combines medicinal chemistry, molecular biology, and RNA sequencing to characterize and identify synergies and overlaps between biological pathways modulated by small molecules.

Read the full highlight of Dr. Diaz on the CBSD website.

Student Highlight: Baisen Zeng Image of Dr. Baisen Zeng

On Jan. 10, 2019, Baisen Zeng successfully defended his dissertation titled A Structural and Biochemical Study on Ric-8A, an Intracellular GEF and Folding Chaperone for Gαi1

Baisen’s abstract reads:

Heterotrimeric G-proteins (Gαβγ) regulate many cellular processes in the G-protein signaling pathways. The α-subunit (Gα) in the heterotrimer is activated by G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) as its guanine-nucleotide exchange factor (GEF), which catalyze the GDP release and GTP binding reactions at Gα nucleotide-binding site, at the cell membrane. Intracellular GEFs for Gα subunits have been identified; among them, the mammalian isoform A of resistance to inhibitors of cholinesterase-8 (Ric-8A) catalyzes nucleotide exchange and functions as a folding chaperone for inhibitory Gα (Gαi1). In a nucleotide-free complex with Gαi1, Ric-8A likely assumes the GEF and chaperone roles by inducing a molten globule-like state. Tall et al. recently discovered that Casein Kinase II phosphorylates Ric-8A at two conserved sites (S435 and T440), which upon phosphorylation, elevates both the GEF and chaperone activities. 
Ric-8A Crystal Structure
Baisen’s dissertation is published on UM’s ScholarWorks. During Baisen’s tenure with the Biochemistry and Biophysics program, he contributed to a handful of publications, two of which are currently in preparation and a notable manuscript being: Please read the full highlight of Dr. Baisen Zeng on the CBSD website.

Upcoming EventsImage of calendar

Watch your inbox in June 2019 for the 8th Annual CBSD CoBRE Research Symposium registration. The next Symposium will occur Sept. 13-14, 2019, at the University of Montana.

CBSD has two seminars left this spring. Full details are available on our website.
  • April 5: Seemay Chou, University of California - San Francisco
  • April 19: Gautam Basu, Bose Institute
Watch your inbox closely, we are about to release a call for 2019-2020 Seminar Sponsorships!

Recent PublicationsPublication icon

View all publications citing CBSD CoBRE. If you are working on a manuscript that has used CBSD CoBRE resources please remember to cite P20GM103546.

Did you miss this?

Dr. Erica Woodahl sat down with SciShow's Hank Green to talk about Precision Medicine.
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We want to extend a special thank you to our newsletter contributors this month: Howard Beall, Orion Berryman, Philippe Diaz, Sara Jestrab, Erica Woodahl, and Baisen Zeng. CBSD would also like to thank it's newsletter content reviewers: Heidi Boggs, Bruce Bowler, Sara Jestrab and Stephen Sprang.
Copyright © 2019 Center for Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics, All rights reserved.

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