CSULA grad student to de-‘bug’ antifreeze proteins
Brown is selected as Eden Award finalist at the CSU Biotechnology Symposium
Why beetle bugs are used for this research?
Insects, such as beegle bugs, have a hyperactive antifreeze protein in their body that keeps them from freezing to death and acclimates them to ice cold temperature or winter conditions.
What is arginine?
Arginine is one of the 20 amino acids or any one of a class of simple organic compounds containing carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and in certain cases sulfur. These compounds are the building blocks of proteins, and are commonly found in animal proteins.
-- CSULA Professor Xin Wen
CSULA biochemistry major Donja Brown is a 2011 Don Eden Graduate Student Research Award finalist.
The answer to a CSULA graduate student’s research on antifreeze protein is found in a bug. Studying the role of arginine residues in enhancing an antifreeze protein from the beetle Dendroides candensis, biochemistry major Donja Brown hopes to understand how the protein works as an adaptive mechanism for many organisms in cold environmental conditions.
According to Brown, “The results of the research will prove valuable for a variety of applications, such as crops grown in cold weather, food that is frozen for storage and transport, and tissues preserved for transplant.”
“Antifreeze proteins,” Brown explained, “allow plants, animals and bacteria to survive in sub-zero environments by stopping ice crystals from forming.”
CSULA Professor Xin Wen (l) and CSULA graduate student Donja Brown (r) analyzing an antifreeze protein sample in a test tube.
Brown, who has been selected a 2011 Don Eden Graduate Student Research Award finalist, will present her research project during the 23rd Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium on Saturday, Jan. 8, 9:25-9:40 a.m., at the Hyatt Regency Orange County. Hosted by the CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB), the symposium aims to make connections between innovative life science research and the impacts it has on society, to highlight cutting-edge biotechnologies, and to inspire students for success in the global economy.
Brown, whose goal is to ultimately pursue a Ph.D. and become a professor, said, “I previously earned a B.A. in psychology at San Diego State University, but I decided I wanted to learn more about the brain and biology in general at a molecular level, with the eventual goal of performing scientific research.”
Image of the proposed tertiary structure of an antifreeze protein from the the beetle Dendroides candensis, showing the likely positions of arginine residues. (credit: Yinlu Wu and Ravinder Abrol)
Through a National Institutes of Health grant for the Research Infrastructure in Minority Institutions (RIMI) Program at Cal State L.A., Brown has the opportunity to be involved with hands-on, breakthrough research. As a member of CSULA Professor Xin Wen’s research lab, she is studying “Antifreeze Protein Enhancers: Identification and Mechanisms.” In addition to Brown and Professor Wen, the research team includes Yinlin Wu, Ravinder Abrol, Eric A. Houghton, Vonny Juwita, and William A. Goddard III.
In a personal statement, Brown noted: “Science research is necessary for improving the lives of humans, and for understanding the world around us. Without science research, there would be no new knowledge acquired. …I feel privileged and excited to be part of the science world, and to take my place on the frontiers of knowledge.”
The Eden Award, to be presented to one of the finalists during the symposium, is designed to foster excellence in graduate student research throughout the CSU system in biotechnology-related research. It is named after San Francisco State Professor Don Eden who held his students, colleagues and himself to the highest standards of excellence in research. Professor Eden’s own research was in biophysics and physical biochemistry.
On Saturday, Jan. 8, 5:30 p.m., Cal State L.A.’s Biological Sciences Professor Howard Xu will be presented the 2011 Andreoli Biotechnology Faculty Service Award during the CSU Biotechnology Symposium Awards Banquet and Program. This award honors a CSU faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to the development of biotechnology in the California State University. The award is named after CSULA Professor Anthony Andreoli who believed that it was his responsibility to do everything he could in order to provide similar opportunities for others. For details: (link to CSULA press release)
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