Faculty Profiles

D. Fernando, Estrada
Estrada, D. Fernando, PhDAssistant Professor
Email: dfestrad@buffalo.edu
Phone: 716-829-2767

Specialty/Research Focus:
Protein Function and Structure; Proteins and metalloenzymes; Vitamins and Trace Nutrient

Research Summary:
Cytochrome P450 enzymes are ubiquitous catalysts that play integral roles in biochemical pathways throughout nature. In mammals, members of this class of enzyme serve a variety of functions that include drug metabolism, steroid biosynthesis and the activation and deactivation of vitamin D, to name a few. Cytochrome P450 enzymes are also heavily involved in bacterial and plant biochemistry. The overall goal of my lab is to use a combination of biochemical and biophysical tools to investigate structure and function in cytochrome P450 enzymes, thereby contributing toward an understanding of how this important class of enzymes work as well as informing the design of novel drugs. This goal is divided between two efforts. First, we are interested in characterizing the ligand binding interactions of the enzyme CYP24A1, the principle enzyme responsible for deactivating vitamin D. Describing the interaction between CYP24A1 and vitamin D has the potential to illuminate how the vitamin D structure becomes modified at a particular site. This insight could impact the design of vitamin D analogs with benefits for an array of human health conditions, including bone density disorders, diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD). A parallel effort in my lab is a structural study of the enzyme CYP121 of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the disease-causing pathogen in tuberculosis (TB). The resurgence of standard TB and the rise of drug-resistant forms of TB are quickly becoming a global pandemic, with TB claiming more lives worldwide in 2014 than HIV. CYP121 is essential for survival of the bacterium and thus has emerged as one of the more promising antitubercular drug targets. Students and postdocs joining my lab will be exposed to a multidisciplinary set of research tools, including expression and purification of recombinant membrane protein, nuclear magnetic resonance, protein X-ray crystallography and P450 ligand binding assays.

Murray, Ettinger
Ettinger, Murray, PhDDistinguished Teaching Professor
Email: ettingem@buffalo.edu
Phone: (716) 829-3257

Specialty/Research Focus:
Cell growth, differentiation and development; Molecular Basis of Disease; Proteins and metalloenzymes; Gene Expression; Inherited Metabolic Disorders; Protein Function and Structure; Cell Cycle

Research Summary:
Protein Methylation in Growth and Differentiation. Protein methylation was recently found by systems biology approaches to play a major role in regulating yeast cell growth. Consistent with this finding, we found that disruption of the gene encoding S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH1) hydrolase markedly inhibited growth. S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) is the universal methyl donor,and SAH1 is the product of all methyltransferase(MTase) reactions.The SAH1 disruption leads to a 50% decrease in protein synthesis which,in turn leads to major decreases in the levels of Cln3p.Unexpectedly,when cells were transfected with a modified gene for Cln3 ,that desreased its rate of degradation,growth rates were normal.This result was unexpected because the basic defect of lacking SAH1 remained.We are currently testing the hypothesis that normal rates of growth are due to increased gene expression for multiple enzymes known to be involved in Met and SAM synthesis. We are also identifying substrates for specific MTases in yeast. Copper deficiency is known to affect brain development, and Menkes disease is fatal due to impaired brain development from low brain copper. A reduction in (SAH1) levels, as occurs in copper deficiency, may affect brain development by inhibiting protein methylation.We demonstrated that inhibiting SAH1 maredly inhibited development of two nerve cell models.

Andrew, Gulick
Gulick, Andrew, PhDPrincipal Research Scientist, HWI
Email: amgulick@buffalo.edu
Phone: 716-898-8619

Specialty/Research Focus:
Structural Biology; X-ray Crystallography; Microbial Pathogenesis; Microbiology; Protein Function and Structure; Proteins and metalloenzymes

Research Summary:
Structural Biology, Natural Product Biosynthesis, Enzymology.

Michael, Malkowski
Malkowski, Michael, PhDProfessor and Chair
Email: mgm22@buffalo.edu
Phone: 716-898-8624

Specialty/Research Focus:
Genomics and proteomics; Protein Function and Structure; Proteins and metalloenzymes

Research Summary:
The Malkowski Laboratory is focused on understanding the structure and function of integral membrane enzymes involved in the conversion of lipid precursors into potent bioactive signaling molecules. We utilize a myriad of methods and techniques to characterize these enzymes, including X-ray crystallography, electron spin resonance spectroscopy, protein chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, and kinetics.

Jerome, Roth
Email: jaroth@buffalo.edu
Phone: (716) 829-3236

Specialty/Research Focus:
Neurodegenerative disorders; Apoptosis and cell death; Membrane Transport (Ion Transport); Proteins and metalloenzymes; Signal Transduction; Toxicology and Xenobiotics

Research Summary:
Dr. Jerome Roth‘s research interests over the past several years have focused on the mechanism of action of manganese in producing neuronal cell death. Manganese is an essential mineral that at high concentration acts as a neurotoxin which produces a Parkinson-like syndrome. Although the identified brain lesions associated with manganism differ from those of Parkinson’s disease, there is increasing evidence that chronic exposure to Mn correlates with increased susceptibility to develop Parkinsonism. Current studies are focused on characterizing the signal transduction pathways stimulated by manganese and to determine whether they also play a role in the toxic actions of this divalent cation. As part of this project we are also investigating the transport mechanisms by which manganese is taken up into cells. We have focused our studies on the divalent metal transporter (DMT1) and its role in the transport of manganese and other divalent cations. We are currently studying the transcriptional and post-translational factors that regulate its expression in vivo. Preliminary studies have linked DMT1 expression to the protein, parkin, mutations in which lead to early onset of Parkinson‘s disease. Whether other gene linked to Parkinsonism are also associate with development of manganism is the current focus of my research. Current studies in my laboratory focus on how other early and late genes associated with Parkinson’s disease can influence Mn toxicity as these studies will provide a basis for the comorbidity between manganism and Parkinson’s; the manipulation of this mechanism may therefore provide new prophylactic and/or management treatment options for Parkinson’s disease.

Christine, Schaner Tooley
Email: ceschane@buffalo.edu
Phone: (716) 829-2978

Specialty/Research Focus:
Cell growth, differentiation and development; DNA Replication, Recombination and Repair; Gene Expression; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Proteins and metalloenzymes; Signal Transduction; Transcription and Translation

Research Summary:
The main goal of my research group is to understand the role of N-terminal methylation on human development and disease. I identified the first eukaryotic N-terminal methyltransferases, NRMT1 and NRMT2, and am now working to identify how these enzymes and this new type of methylation affect cancer development and ageing. Our laboratory has shown that NRMT1 functions as a tumor suppressor in mammary glands, and its loss sensitizes breast cancer cells to DNA damaging chemotherapeutics. We have also created the first NRMT1 knockout mouse and shown it to have developmental defects, as well as, exhibit phenotypes of premature ageing. Currently, we are working to understand the exact biochemical pathways that lead from loss of N-terminal methylation to these phenotypes. We are also studying how post-translational modifications on the N-terminus of proteins may interact and dictate protein function, similar to the post-translational modifications found on histone tails.

Stanley, Schwartz
Schwartz, Stanley, MD, PhDDistinguished Professor, Medicine, Pediatrics, and Microbiology & Immunology; Division Chief, Allergy-Immunology-Rheumatology
Email: sasimmun@buffalo.edu
Phone: 716-859-2985

Specialty/Research Focus:
Allergy and Immunology; Immunology; Proteins and metalloenzymes; RNA

Edward, Snell
Snell, Edward, PhDSenior Scientist, CEO of Hauptman-Woodward Medical Institute
Email: esnell@buffalo.edu
Phone: (716) 898-8631

Specialty/Research Focus:
Structural Biology; X-ray Crystallography; Bioinformatics; Proteins and metalloenzymes; Protein Function and Structure

Research Summary:
Dr. Edward Snell is a Senior Scientist and Cheif Executive officer at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute and faculty at the SUNY University at Buffalo Department of Structural Biology. He is a board member on the International Organization for Biological Crystallization, a member of the MacCHESS (The Macromolecular diffraction facility at Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source) Advisory Committee and a member of the executive committee for the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource users organization. He serves as a reviewer for multiple international Journals and both national and international funding agencies. He is on the American Crystallographic Association Communications Committee and chair-elect of the Biological Macromolecules Scientific Interest Group. His research group uses complementary techniques to extract structural and dynamic information from biological macromolecules. This research includes the development of crystallization methodology and the resulting analysis with an emphasis on high-energy light sources. Other techniques in use include Electron Paramagnetic Resonance and spectroscopy. He is experienced in solution scattering techniques, having organized and taught at both national and international meetings. The Snell laboratory research is supported by NIH, NSF, DoD, and NASA in addition to non-federal sources.

Timothy, Umland
Email: tcumland@buffalo.edu
Phone: 716-898-8632

Specialty/Research Focus:
Structural Biology; X-ray Crystallography; Bioinformatics; Genomics and proteomics; Infectious Disease; Microbial Pathogenesis; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Protein Function and Structure; Proteins and metalloenzymes; Virology

Research Summary:
The overarching goal of the Umland Lab is to use structural biology combined with biochemical, molecular biology, and genetics to explore important elements of infectious disease. The objective is to both extend the fundamental understanding of how microbial pathogens interact with their respective hosts and to identify new antimicrobial targets and new antimicrobial therapeutics. Two major projects on this theme are on going within the lab. In the first, unrecognized and underexploited potential antimicrobial targets within multi-, extreme, and pan-drug resistant gram-negative bacilli (GNB) are being identified and then characterized using the phenotype of in vivo essentiality. That is, our interest is in genes and their corresponding gene products that are essential for bacterial growth and survival during infection of a host (i.e., in vivo) rather than only essential under ideal laboratory growth conditions (e.g., rich laboratory media, absence of immune responses, etc.). The class of genes that are in vivo essential but not in vitro essential has largely been neglected as antimicrobial targets, and so represents a rich set for expanding target space in the urgent race to develop new antimicrobials. The second project is focused upon identifying and characterizing virus protein - host protein interactions. Viruses encode a highly limited set of functionality, and therefore rely on subverting cellular machinery. This high jacking of cellular functions for the benefit of the virus often involved virus-host protein-protein interactions (PPIs). Study of these virus-host PPIs reveals both the mechanisms by which viruses co-opt cellular functions and potential new antiviral targets recalcitrant to the development of drug resistance. An additional rationale for studying virus-host PPIs is to understand virus evolution with respect to PPI involvement in virulence, pathogenesis, and host tropism. In conjunction with both of these projects, the Umland Lab is using structurally enabled fragment-based lead discovery (FBLD) methods to identify small molecules with potential to be developed into antimicrobial therapeutics.