Evelyn Abraham
Year: 2018
Faculty Advisor: Miguel Pineros

“Development of tools for structural analysis of plant membrane proteins”


Project Summary:

All cells and organelles are surrounded by a lipid bilayer membrane, which are impermeable to hydrophilic molecules such as sugars and small ions. Membrane proteins provide a means of transport of such substances across the membrane. The structure of these proteins yields its functional properties, such as determining which substrates it can transport. In this study, we develop tools that help determine the structural composition and functional relationship of plant membrane transport proteins. Here we utilize a purified Ca2+ permeable plant ion channel involved in drought stress response signaling as a proof of concept for the evaluated techniques. Through ion channel reconstitution into synthesized lipid bilayers we have validated the functionality of the recombinant protein via single channel electrophysiology and oligomeric state with single molecule subunit-counting. As a supplement to these in vitro studies, generation of vectors for expression of novel fluorescent mNeonGreen chimeras in vivo allows further validation of these Ca2+ channel structural-functional relations. These valuable tools will serve as a resource for the community for further work with similar plant membrane proteins.

My Experience:

Spending my summer in the Pineros lab played a crucial part in my decision to attend graduate school. I was surrounded daily with scientists who pushed me to succeed and embrace the daily opportunities to learn. I enjoyed being in the lab every day and felt welcome to ask questions whenever necessary.  In addition to learning in the lab, the PGRP program with BTI provided valuable information for graduate school applications and resources to understand the day-to-day life of a graduate student. I feel like after completion of the program I am much more prepared and excited for the application process, and I cannot wait to continue plant biology research for my career.