MU researchers tackle tough grapevine pest

MU researchers tackle tough grapevine pest

Division of Plant Sciences and Bond LSC investigators Jack Schultz and Heidi Appel have been awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to unravel the mystery of how an insect pest gets the better of the world’s – and Missouri’s – most valuable fruit crop. Grape phylloxera is an insect that infests grapevine leaves and roots, reducing the plant’s production and cutting off its water supply. The insect somehow convinces the plant to construct a complex home and feeding site around itself, called a gall. Many kinds of insects can cause plants to create galls, but no one knows how they do it. Clues suggest that the insect uses chemical signals to alter the activity of genes needed to develop these unique organs. The Schultz/Appel team, helped by collaborators at the University of Florida, will identify grapevine genes the insect manipulates to form a gall. Not only will this solve a long-standing mystery about the galling process, but it will also offer the grape/wine industry a means of identifying resistant vines. Missouri saved the world’s wine industry once before, by exporting phylloxera-resistant vines. This research project offers a second opportunity to defeat this scourge of the vineyard.

Bond LSC post doc recognized for his research on novel HIV drug

Lefteris Michailidis received the 2013 Distinguished Dissertation Award for his work to understand EFdA, a new drug that shows promise to treat resistant HIV viruses with fewer side effects.

Lefteris Michailidis received the 2013 Distinguished Dissertation Award for his work to understand EFdA, a new drug that shows promise to treat resistant HIV viruses with fewer side effects.

A four-letter drug could be the next generation of AIDS treatment.

EFdA, a new anti-viral drug in development, promises HIV treatment that is more effective with fewer side effects and less resistance.

Lefteris Michailidis received the 2013 Distinguished Dissertation Award earlier this year from the MU’s Graduate Faculty Senate for his work to understand how EFdA works on a molecular level. Michailidis currently works as a post-doc in Stefan Sarafianos’ lab. Sarafianos is an MU associate professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and a Bond Life Sciences Center investigator.

“My work shows EFdA works with a different mechanism and that could change the way we design drugs to combat HIV in the future,” Michailidis said. “It’s also a very potent drug and it’s not just proof of concept of this idea, but hopefully it can be used in the clinic.”

A month after Michailidis defended his dissertation in 2012, the drug company Merck licensed EFdA and it is currently in preclinical trials.

Collaboration made this progress possible.

EFdA was discovered in 2001 by Japanese researchers at Yamasa Corporation, a soy sauce producing Japanese company. Sarafianos’ lab at the Bond Life Sciences Center cooperated with them and Michael Parniak at the University of Pittsburgh to explore the drug.

Michailidis looked at the structure of EFdA, comparing the way it works to widely used anti-HIV drugs. These current drugs, called Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs), are used as one of the first therapies in AIDS treatment. They target reverse transcriptase (RT), an enzyme that starts viral replication. By competing with natural nucleotides, NRTIs can terminate DNA synthesis, stopping the spread of the virus.

Michailidis found that EFdA ‘s structure includes a hydroxyl group that is missing from current NRTIs like tenofovir, the most prescribed HIV drug. This difference makes EFdA effective against resistant, mutated HIV strains where traditional classes of HIV drugs fail.

AIDS was first reported in 1981, and its diagnosis was equivalent to a death sentence. Since the first NRTI drug was approved in 1987, HIV has progressed to more of a manageable, chronic disease in the developed world. The World Health Organization estimated in 2011 that 34 million people live with HIV, with 1.4 million of those living in North America.

Michailidis hopes his research will help lead to future drugs on the market that will counter HIV resistance and improve the lives of patients.

“These new insights into the mechanism of action and resistance of NRTIs may lead to development of novel antiviral regimens in the near future,” Micharilidis said. “It’s not just a theoretical base to prove something unique, but eventually we hope it will have an application.”

Claiming Kin, MU’s 9th annual Life Sciences and Society Symposium kicks off today

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Stephanie Coontz, award-winning writer on the history of marriage, chatted with Jack Schultz, director of the Bond Life Sciences Center. Coontz presented the keynote address Friday night at Claiming Kin, MU’s 9th annual Life Sciences and Society Symposium.

Check out Saturday and Sunday’s speakers on the subject of kinship athttp://lssp.missouri.edu/claimingkin/schedule.

Renowned anthropologist speaks about Noble Savages

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Napolean Chagnon spoke to a full house Tuesday in Monsanto Auditorium about his new book, Noble Savages. Chagnon joined MU’s Department of Anthropology as Distinguished Research Professor and Chancellor’s Chair of Excellence in 2013. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2012, but is most known for contributions to his genealogical research, his contributions to evolutionary theory in cultural anthropology and his work in the study of warfare.

His new book is a retrospective look at his work as an anthropologist, where he most famously document the Amazonian Yanomamö tribe of Venezuela in the 1960s. His work caused controversy because it detailed a tribe violence within the tribe, an attribute at the time thought to be caused by the intrusion of modern societies on native people.

Read more about Chagnon and Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes—the Yanomamö and the Anthropologists from Mizzou Weekly.

It’s a matter of territory

Territory matters to California mice when it comes to mating.

Males in this monogamous mouse species use their scent glands to mark the boundaries of their home range, making their dominance known one scent at a time to other males. Too much bisphenol A (BPA) in their environment can change that, short-circuiting their ability to complete this crucial task. Male mice fed BPA couldn’t mark territory when a normal male entered their environment, putting them at a disadvantage. That means the chemical could seriously impact whether these mice pass their genes on to the next generation.

Cheryl Rosenfeld, a researcher here at MU’s Bond Life Sciences Center, recently published these results in PLOS ONE. Rosenfeld previously studied deer mice, finding BPA disrupted the ability of males to find their mates. She decided to repeat the experiment with California mice because their monogamous relationships, where both parents care for their offspring together, might mirror human relationships more closely.

If you’re interested in the nuts and bolts, read Rosenfeld’s the whole study at PLOS ONE, an international open-source science journal.

A National Institute of Health Challenge Grant, a Mizzou Advantage grant and support from Food for the 21th Century Program made this research possible. Rosenfeld collaborated across disciplines with teams from the Bond Life Sciences Center, Biological Sciences, Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, Department of Psychological Sciences, Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Animal Science, Biochemistry, Biomedical Science, Genetics and CAFNR.

Read MU’s News Bureau release on Rosenfeld’s work.

Welcome

Jack Schultz, Professor of Plant Sciences and Director of the Bond Life Sciences Center

Jack Schultz, Professor of Plant Sciences and Director of the Bond Life Sciences Center

Welcome to Decoding Science, a new science blog from the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center at the University of Missouri! The Bond Center is a highly interdisciplinary research organization that promotes collaboration to address questions where different disciplines and study systems meet. Our approaches range far and wide through the life sciences and beyond. So we have lots of stories of our own and we follow interesting science tales everywhere we find them.

So, why “Decoding Science”? Well, we realize that scientists speak their own language, loaded with strange jargon and complicated logic. That can make them hard to understand. We really want to change that, so that anyone can enjoy the exciting science stories we find. We’ll be decoding the strange words and concepts so we can share them with all.

Stay with us and you’ll wind up as excited as we are about what’s happening in science and our world, and you’ll pick up stories and factoids you may even want to retell. So – let’s get started!