Investigating Gene Expression in N. gruberi amoeba to Search for Potential Treatment Targets in Amoeba-Caused Meningitis

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Aerin Hamons
Yoshi Odaka


Record ID: 185

Mentorship Award: Excellence in Research Mentoring

Type: Poster Presentation (in-person)

Advisor: Yoshi Odaka

Abstract: The amoeba Naegleria fowleri, also known as “the brain eating amoeba,” is known to cause a rare brain infection called Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) which is fatal in over 90% of cases. As precious little is known about how N. fowleri attacks human brain tissue, we seek to expand this understanding by working with similar proteins found in nonpathogenic Naegleria gruberi. We began our search with human integrins – a group of proteins that function as an α/β pair on the outside of the cell and allow cells to communicate with the connective tissue around them. We compared these integrin proteins by BLAST homolog search (a genetics/protein database) against Naegleria and found no good candidates among the α-integrins but identified several among the β-integrins, ultimately narrowing these down to two N. gruberi proteins as experimental candidates. | One is a partially annotated (identified) integrin-like serine/threonine kinase – a protein that may be involved in cellular communication and regulating cellular reproduction, programmed cell death, and differentiation into different types of cells in human cells. The other integrin-like protein possibly carries seven-transmembrane helical structures, like G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR). GPCRs are a hugely diverse group of receptor proteins with functions such as in nervous and endocrine (hormonal) systems, and about half of drugs on the market target GPCR receptors. The two proteins of interest in Naegleria may participate in cellular functions such as foraging behavior or adhesion to material in its environment. Our current project is to see if the messenger RNA (mRNA) to produce these proteins is expressed in different experimental conditions.

Article Details

Category: Electrical, Chemical, & Cellular Worlds
Author Biography

Aerin Hamons, University of Cincinnati

Major(s): ACS Chemistry to transition to Biochemistry