2021-22 Audree V. Fowler Fellows in Protein Science

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Graduate students Weixian Deng, Yi Xiao “Sean” Jiang, Maria Flores, Carter Lantz, and Logan Richards have been selected as 2021-2022 Fowler Fellows.

Each Fellow presented a talk at the Audree V. Fowler Fellowships in Protein Science Special Seminar on Tuesday, October 5, 2021 from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm in Boyer 159 and online via Zoom. 

2021 Fowler Fellows

A strong supporter of the basic sciences and medicine at UCLA, alumna Dr. Audree Fowler (B.S. ’56 chemistry, Ph.D. ’63 biochemistry) (pictured above) established the Audree V. Fowler Fellows in Protein Science in 2008. Fowler was Director UCLA Protein Microsequencing Facility from 1984-1999 and is a Researcher Emeritus of the UCLA Department of Biological Chemistry. She is one of the first four women to receive a Ph.D. from the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. In 2018, the women were awarded the department’s 2018 Alumni Legacy Awards in recognition of their achievements in life, and generous support and service to UCLA. “The sciences gave me a great life. Now I want to help others have access to the same opportunities I enjoyed,” Fowler explained when she established the Fowler Fellowships endowment.

Applications for the fellowships are solicited from graduate students in the Molecular Biology Interdepartmental (MBI) Ph.D. Program, Biological Chemistry, and Chemistry & Biochemistry Departments. In addition to presenting their research at a special seminar, the recipients each receive a $5,000 award. 

About the 2021-22 Audree Fowler Fellows in Protein Science

Deng Fowler 0Weixian Deng is a sixth year, Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology (MBI-BBSB) graduate student in Dr. Kathrin Plath and Dr. James Wohlschlegel’s groups. Prior to coming to UCLA, he studied the molecular mechanism of plant blue light photoreceptor, Cryptochromes, regulating Arabidopsis photomorphogenesis and received B.S. and M.S. degrees at Jilin University in China. Weixian’s graduate work focuses on the bottom-up proteomics methodology development and understanding the mechanism of induced pluripotency stem cell reprogramming (iPSC). It has been lacking of robustness in order to capture nuclear large molecules (DNA, RNA and protein) interacting proteomes through mass spectrometry. Weixian developed and optimized several techniques for determining DNA-protein, RNA-protein and nuclear protein-protein interactions. He has been combining these proteomics techniques and genomics approaches to investigate the molecular mechanism of how Yamanaka factors transform somatic cell types to iPSCs and to understand how long non-coding RNAs regulate gene expression in early human embryo development.
The title of Weixian’s Fowler Fellow talk is “CMMB-based isopropanol gradient peptide fractionation (CIF) enables rapid and robust offline peptide mixture fractionation in bottom-up proteomics”.

Jiang Fowler 0Yi Xiao “Sean” Jiang is a fourth year Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology (BBSB) graduate student in Professor David Eisenberg’s group. Sean received his B.Sc. in Biochemistry at McGill University, where he studied polyketide synthases with Dr. Martin Schmeing.

Sean’s graduate work focuses on uncovering the structures of amyloid fibrils from neurodegenerative diseases. Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is the second leading cause of presenile dementia; FTLD-TDP, the major disease subtype, is characterized by neuropathological deposits of TDP-43 protein. Sean extracted fibrils from brains of four FTLD-TDP patients and determined their structures by cryo-EM. Unexpectedly, all fibrils examined were composed of TMEM106B, a lysosomal transmembrane protein previously identified as a genetic risk factor for FTLD-TDP. This observation suggests that amyloid involvement in FTLD-TDP is of TMEM106B, rather than TDP-43. Sean’s findings will refocus attention on the pathogenic role of this largely ignored protein, and perhaps open a pathway to structure-based therapies for this common form of brain degeneration.

The title of Sean’s Fowler Fellow talk is “Amyloid fibrils from frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 inclusions (FTLD-TDP) is composed of TMEM106B, rather than TDP-43”.

Flores Fowler 0Maria Flores is a fifth year Biochemistry, Molecular and Structural Biology (BMSB) graduate student in Professor Jose Rodriguez’s lab. As an undergraduate at Indiana University Bloomington, Maria characterized cell membrane coated nanoparticles and their interactions with cells in Professor Yan Yu’s lab. She received her B.S. in Biotechnology in 2017.

Maria’s graduate research focuses on prion-like conformations in the cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding (CPEB) protein 3. CPEB3 is an RNA binding protein that is involved in cellular memory and assists in synaptic plasticity in mammals. It’s prion-like domain allows its conversion to its functional aggregated state in stimulated synaptic environments- allowing for localization of protein synthesis. Maria utilizes cryo-electron microscopy to investigate CPEB3 aggregates in their isolated states and within cells. Her work aims to understand how functional prion-like proteins differ structurally from their pathogenic counterparts in their folds and localization within cells.

The title of Maria’s Fowler Fellow talk is “CryoEM structure of human CPEB3’s functional prion-like domain”.

Lantz Fowler 0Carter Lantz is a fifth year Biochemistry, Molecular and Structural Biology (BMSB) graduate student in Professor Joseph Loo’s lab. Carter graduated from Baylor University in 2017 with a B.A. in University Scholars. His research at Baylor focused on using mass spectrometry methods to characterize lipid compounds formed by Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in nitrogen starved conditions.

Carter’s research aims to investigate how mass spectrometry techniques can be utilized to return relevant information about the primary structure and higher-order structure of intact proteins and protein complexes. He has investigated how analysis of internal fragments resulting from top-down mass spectrometry (TD-MS) can increase the sequence coverage of proteins. Using TD-MS and ion mobility-mass spectrometry, he has characterized the interaction of amyloid proteins and an aggregation inhibiting compound known as CLR01. In addition, he has found that performing TD-MS on protein complexes with collisionally activated dissociation can reveal higher-order structural aspects of those protein complexes.

The title of Carter’s Fowler Fellow talk is “Mass Spectrometry Analysis Can Reveal Key Sequence and Structural Information for Proteins and Protein Complexes”.

Richards Fowler 0Logan Richards is a fifth year Biochemistry, Molecular and Structural Biology (BMSB) student in Professor Jose Rodriguez’s group. Prior to coming to UCLA in 2017, Logan received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UCI, where he studied the structure and thermodynamics of P450 enzymes with Dr. Thomas Poulos.

Logan’s graduate work focuses on the application of fragment-based phasing techniques to electron diffraction data of proteins, peptides, and other peptide-derived molecules. Paths to overcome the phase problem for electron diffraction are currently limited and many datasets require novel phasing solutions. A central part of this methodology is the development of new ways to generate structural fragments both from previously determined structures and through computational structure prediction methods. Logan’s work has helped determine a number of protein and peptide structures and his continued goal is to enable structure determination from electron diffraction data by providing a broadly applicable solution to the phase problem.

The title of Logan’s Fowler Fellow talk is ““Enabling structure determination by electron diffraction using fragment-based phasing”.

Previous Fowler Fellows from the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

2020-21 – Janine Fu (Loo lab), Calina Glynn (Rodriguez lab), and Jiahui Lu (Eisenberg lab)

2019-20 – David Boyer (Eisenberg lab), Orlando Martinez (Clubb lab) and John Muroski (Loo lab)

2018-19 – Scott McConnell (Clubb lab), Kevin Murray (Eisenberg lab), Rebeccah Warmack (S. Clarke lab)

2017-18 – Michael Hughes (Eisenberg lab), Yuxi Liu (Yeates lab), Kanishk Jain (S. Clarke lab) 

2016-17 – Brendan Amer (Clubb Lab) and Jeff Vinokur (Bowie Lab)

2015-16 – Henry Chan (Feigon lab), Smriti Sangwan (Eisenberg lab), Nicholas Woodall (Bowie lab)

2014-15 – Dan McNamara (Yeates lab)

2013-14 – Alex Jacobitz (Clubb lab), Alexander Patananan (S. Clarke lab), Carly Ferguson (Loo lab)

2012-13 – Letian Xie (C. Clarke lab), Anni Zhao (Eisenberg lab)

2011-12 – Timothy Anderson (Clubb lab), Soohong Kim (Weiss lab)

2010-11 – Zeynep Durer (Reiser lab), Cecilia Zurita-Lopez (S. Clarke lab)

2009-10 – Luki Goldschmidt (Eisenberg lab), Kristofer Webb (S. Clarke lab), Sheng Yin (Loo lab)

2008-09 – Nathan Joh (Bowie lab), Neil King (Yeates lab)

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu. Photos and biographies courtesy of the Molecular Biology Institute.