• Name: Jennifer R. Chase, Ph.D.
  • Institution: Northwest Nazarene University
  • Department: Biology
  • Phone: 208-467-8892
  • Email: jrchase@nnu.edu

Summary: The cells of the uterine endometrium are responsible for providing sugars and their derivatives to the developing embryo before and even after implantation. The storage of sugars (as glycogen) and delivery of glucose, pyruvate, and lactate is regulated by estrogens, progesterone, and possibly other hormones. Although dysregulation of these metabolic pathways may be a cause for infertility, the regulation is not yet understood. Students will help to develop a valid computer model of regulation of carbohydrate metabolism in mink or human uterine cell lines. Students may be tasked with caring for the cultured cells at various hormone levels, measuring enzyme kinetic constants, or measuring the production of or steady state levels of metabolites in cultured cells. The measurements will become parameters of a computerized model that will then be used to develop hypotheses that can be tests about mechanisms of regulation and to predict which enzymes might be good therapeutic targets or identifiable risk factors for infertility.

Minimum Classes: Biochemistry experience is preferred, but students who have taken at least general chemistry will be considered for positions.

Projects: 1. Human enzyme purification & assays Students will use bacterial culture techniques, centrifugation, and affinity or ion exchange chromatography to isolate human alcohol dehydrogenase from bacterial clones. The purified enzyme will be assayed using spectrophotometry, to determine binding and rate constants for the enzyme as well as to determine the rate of the reactions under physiological conditions. Students should have studied general chemistry and general biology, at least. The purpose of this part of the project is to both (a) measure required kinetic constants under appropriate conditions to match in vivo conditions. Not only will this augment the literature but it will provide these values for the computational model. 2. Computational modeling: Students will assemble computational models to calculate the effect of ethanol on its own or the oxidation of retinol. Using constants gleaned from the literature or obtained in our lab, students will modify existing computational models to evaluate the effect of additional enzymes or change in values. These models use large (but straight-forward) equations to describe the rate of the ethanol or retinol oxidation in the presence of physiological inhibitors. Individual enzyme models already exist but students would be combining these and optimizing them for physiological conditions. An ideal student would have some programming experience and have studied biochemistry. The purpose of this part of the project is to assess the hypothesized role of ethanol in altering RA production in human tissues.

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