Monday, February 1, 2016

University of Iowa assistant professor of biochemistry Miles Pufall recently received a National Science Foundation award for $1,162,416. The project, titled “CAREER: Allosteric Regulation of Transcription Factor DNA Binding Specificity, Kinetics and Cellular Activity,” started Jan. 15 and is expected to continue to Dec. 31, 2020.

Though 20,000 genes are present in every cell of the body, only a fraction of these are used at any given time. The choice of genes to use is determined by environmental cues, such as heat, cold, food, hormones, and injury.

Pufall’s project will study how proteins function to turn genes on and off in response to hormones. The research will require expertise from a variety of disciplines, including physics, chemistry, and biology, which are often kept separate in scientific culture.

The research fosters cross-disciplinary training at the undergraduate level by re-engineering how organic chemistry laboratory is taught and connecting it to a pressing research problem. The results of the study will provide critical insight into how cells respond to their environment, while preparing the next generation of scientists to break down interdisciplinary barriers in the workplace.

The project is co-funded by the Genetic Mechanisms Program in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and the Division of Emerging Frontiers in the Biological Sciences Directorate, and by the Chemistry of Life Processes Program in the Division of Chemistry in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate.