Gail R. Willsky PhD

Gail Willsky

Gail R. Willsky

Associate Professor

Department of Biochemistry

Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Specialty/Research Focus

Cell growth, differentiation and development; Microbiology; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Molecular Basis of Disease; Regulation of metabolism; Signal Transduction; Toxicology and Xenobiotics; Vitamins and Trace Nutrient

Contact Information
140 Farber Hall
Buffalo, NY 14214
Phone: (716) 829-2969
Fax: (716) 829-2725

Professional Summary:

Dr. Willsky’s research focuses on the role of oxovanadium compounds in cellular metabolism. V is a trace metal believed to be required for growth. Oral administration of oxovanadium compounds alleviates the symptoms of Diabetes in animal models and humans. The techniques of genetics, microbiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and cell physiology are used. The diabetes-altered gene expression of genes involved in lipid metabolism, oxidative stress and signal transduction is returned to normal by V treatment of rats with STZ-induced diabetes, as demonstrated using DNA microarrays. Inhibition of tyrosine protein phosphatases is believed to be a major cause of the insulin-like effects of V. Our results implicate the interaction of V with cellular oxidation-reduction reactions as being important in the anti-diabetic mechanism of V complexes. A new project in the lab studies the mode of action of medicinal plant mixtures used by the native healers of Peru.

Education and Training:

  • PhD, Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Tufts University (1976)
  • BS, Biophysics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1970)

Grants and Sponsored Research:

  • July 1999–June 2004
    Chemistry and Biology of Insulin-like Vanadium Compounds
    Buffalo Consortium
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator

Journal Articles:

  • Gail R. Willsky, Lai-Har Chi, Michael Godzala, III, Paul J. Kostyniak, Jason J. Smee, Alejandro M. Trujillo, Josephine A. Alfano, Wenjin Ding, Zihua Hu and Debbie C. Crans. Anti-diabetic effects of vanadium dipicolinate complexes in rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes. Coordination Chemistry Reviews. 2011; 255.
  • McLauchlan CC Peters, BJ Willsky, GR Crans, DC. Vanadium–phosphatase complexes: Phosphatase inhibitors favor the trigonal bipyramidal transition state geometries. Coordination Chemistry Reviews. 2015; 301.
  • Xie M, Chen D, Zhang F, Willsky GR, Crans DC, Ding W. Effects of vanadium (III, IV, V)-chlorodipicolinate on glycolysis and antioxidant status in the liver of STZ-induced diabetic rats. J Inorg Biochem. 2014; 136.
  • Willsky GR. Anti-diabetic effects of a series of vanadium dipicolinate complexes in rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes. Coordination Chem Reviews. 2011; 255.
  • Crans DC, Zhang B, Gaidamauskas E, Keramidas AD, Willsky GR, Roberts CR. Is vanadate reduced by thiols under biological conditions? Changing the redox potential of V(V)/V(IV) by complexation in aqueous solution. Inorg Chem. 2010; 49(9).
  • Li M, Ding W, Smee JJ, Baruah B, Willsky GR, Crans DC. Anti-diabetic effects of vanadium(III, IV, V)-chlorodipicolinate complexes in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Biometals. 2009.
  • Smee JJ, Epps JA, Ooms K, Bolte SE, Polenova T, Baruah B, Yang L, Ding W, Li M, Willsky GR, la Cour A, Anderson OP, Crans DC. Chloro-substituted dipicolinate vanadium complexes: synthesis, solution, solid-state, and insulin-enhancing properties. J Inorg Biochem. 2009; 103(4).
  • Smee JJ, Epps JA, Teissedre G, Maes M, Harding N, Yang L, Baruah B, Miller SM, Anderson OP, Willsky GR, Crans DC. 4-amino- and 4-nitrodipicolinatovanadium(V) complexes and their hydroxylamido derivatives: synthesis, aqueous, and solid-state properties. Inorg Chem. 2007; 46(23).
  • Willsky GR. Comparing Administration Route in Rats with Streptozocin-Induced Diabetes and Inhibition of Myoblast Growth of Vanadium [V(III), V(IV) and V(V)] Dipicolinic Acid Complexes.. 2007; 974.
  • Willsky GR, Chi LH, Liang Y, Gaile DP, Hu Z, Crans DC. Diabetes-altered gene expression in rat skeletal muscle corrected by oral administration of vanadyl sulfate. Physiol Genomics. 2006; 26(3).
  • Hu Z, Willsky GR. Utilization of two sample t-test statistics from redundant probe sets to evaluate different probe set algorithms in GeneChip studies. BMC Bioinformatics. 2006; 7:12(-).
  • Buglyó P, Crans DC, Nagy EM, Lindo RL, Yang L, Smee JJ, Jin W, Chi LH, Godzala Iii ME, Willsky GR. Aqueous chemistry of the vanadium(III) (V(III)) and the V(III)-dipicolinate systems and a comparison of the effect of three oxidation states of vanadium compounds on diabetic hyperglycemia in rats. Inorg Chem. 2005; 44(15).
  • Crans DC, Smee JJ, Gaidamauskiene EG, Anderson OP, Miller SM, Jin W, Gaidamauskas E, Crubellier E, Grainda R, Chi LH, Willsky GR. Inhibition of yeast growth by molybdenum-hydroxylamido complexes correlates with their presence in media at differing pH values. J Inorg Biochem. 2004; 98(11).
  • Willsky GR. (4-hydroxypyridine-2,6dicarboxylato) oxovanadate(V) - A New Insulin-Like Compound: Chemistry: Effects on Myoblast and Yeast Cell Growth and Effects on Hyperglycemia in Rats with STZ-Induced Diabetes. Coord. Chem. Rev. 2003; 237.
  • Willsky GR. Vanadium (IV) and Vanadium (V) Complexes of Dipicolinic Acid and Derivatives: Synthesis, X-ray Structure, Solution State Properties and Effects in Rats with STZ-induced Diabetes.. Inorganica Chimica Acta. 2003; 356.
  • Yang L, Crans DC, Miller SM, la Cour A, Anderson OP, Kaszynski PM, Godzala ME, Austin LD, Willsky GR. Cobalt(II) and cobalt(III) dipicolinate complexes: solid state, solution, and in vivo insulin-like properties.. Inorg Chem. 2002; 41(19).
  • Gail Willsky, Goldfine AB, Paul Kostyniak, McNeill JH, Yang LQ, Khan HR, Crans DC. Effect of vanadium(IV) compounds in the treatment of diabetes: in vivo and in vitro studies with vanadyl sulfate and bis(maltolato)oxovandium(IV).. J Inorg Biochem. 2001; 85(1).
  • Goldfine AB, Patti ME, Zuberi L, Goldstein BJ, LeBlanc R, Landaker EJ, Jiang ZY, Gail Willsky, Kahn CR. Metabolic effects of vanadyl sulfate in humans with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: in vivo and in vitro studies.. Metabolism. 2000; 49(3).
  • Lohr JW, Gail Willsky, Acara MA. Renal drug metabolism.. Pharmacol Rev. 1998; 50(1).
  • Willsky GR. Vanadium Salts in the Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus in Humans. ACS Symposium Series. 1998; 711.
  • Lohr JW, Bennett MI, Pochal MA, McReynolds J, Acara M, Gail Willsky. Effect of vanadate on renal hypertrophy and sorbitol accumulation in streptozotocin induced diabetes in rats.. Res Commun Chem Pathol Pharmacol. 1991; 72(2).
  • Minasi LA, Gail Willsky. Characterization of vanadate-dependent NADH oxidation stimulated by Saccharomyces cerevisiae plasma membranes.. J Bacteriol. 1991; 173(2).
  • Minasi LA, Chang A, Gail Willsky. Plasma membrane-stimulated vanadate-dependent NADH oxidation is not the primary mediator of vanadate toxicity in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.. J Biol Chem. 1990; 265(25).
  • Johnson TM, Meisler MH, Bennett MI, Gail Willsky. Vanadate induction of pancreatic amylase mRNA in diabetic rats.. Diabetes. 1990; 39(6).
  • Chang EC, Kosman DJ, Gail Willsky. Arsenic oxide-induced thermotolerance in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.. J Bacteriol. 1989; 171(11).
  • Gail Willsky, Dosch SF. Vanadium metabolism in wild type and respiratory-deficient strains of S. cerevisiae.. Yeast. 1986; 2(2).
  • Gail Willsky, Leung JO, Offermann PV, Plotnick EK, Dosch SF. Isolation and characterization of vanadate-resistant mutants of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.. J Bacteriol. 1985; 164(2).
  • Gail Willsky, White DA, McCabe BC. Metabolism of added orthovanadate to vanadyl and high-molecular-weight vanadates by Saccharomyces cerevisiae.. J Biol Chem. 1984; 259(21).
  • Silver S, Budd K, Leahy KM, Shaw WV, Hammond D, Novick RP, Gail Willsky, Malamy MH, Rosenberg H. Inducible plasmid-determined resistance to arsenate, arsenite, and antimony (III) in escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.. J Bacteriol. 1981; 146(3).
  • Gail Willsky, Malamy MH. Effect of arsenate on inorganic phosphate transport in Escherichia coli.. J Bacteriol. 1980; 144(1).
  • Gail Willsky, Malamy MH. Characterization of two genetically separable inorganic phosphate transport systems in Escherichia coli.. J Bacteriol. 1980; 144(1).
  • Gail Willsky. Characterization of the plasma membrane Mg2+-ATPase from the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae.. J Biol Chem. 1979; 254(9).
  • Gail Willsky, Malamy MH. Control of the synthesis of alkaline phosphatase and the phosphate-binding protein in Escherichia coli.. J Bacteriol. 1976; 127(1).
  • Gail Willsky, Malamy MH. The loss of the phoS periplasmic protein leads to a change in the specificity of a constitutive inorganic phosphate transport system in Escherichia coli.. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1974; 60(1).
  • Gail Willsky, Bennett RL, Malamy MH. Inorganic phosphate transport in Escherichia coli: involvement of two genes which play a role in alkaline phosphatase regulation.. J Bacteriol. 1973; 113(2).
See all (25 more)

Books and Book Chapters:

  • Tracey, AS; Willsky, GR; Takeuchi, ES. Vanadium Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmacology and Practical Applications. 2007.

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Contact Information

140 Farber Hall
Buffalo, NY 14214
Phone: (716) 829-2969
Fax: (716) 829-2725