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Research Expertise & Professional Interests My research focuses on understanding the amyloidogenic nature of transthyretin (TTR), normally a soluble protein present in plasma and cerebral spinal fluid. Both wild-type and specific variant forms of TTR can be amyloidogenic, but disease onset is delayed in what appears to be an age-dependent mechanism. Our investigations are aimed at identifying specific age-related factors required to initiate the disease process; these factors likely include structural features that are both intrinsic and extrinsic to TTR. My research attempts to link protein biochemistry to disease pathology by studying the role of amino acid alterations, post-translational modifications (glycosylation, sulfonation, cysteinylation and phosphorylation) and metabolic processing in TTR amyloid fibril formation. We have precisely defined the molecular composition of numerous amyloidogenic TTR proteins derived from patient serum and tissue samples using mass spectrometry, analytical ultracentrifugation, and electron microscopy. In addition, using a proteomic approach, we have identified several tissue components present in patient specimens which may be effectors of amyloidogenesis. With recombinantly-generated proteins, we are studying the molecular stability of various forms of TTR, as well as the heteroassociations of TTR with these deposited molecular constituents using electrophoretic, chromatographic, and histological techniques. A translational component of our studies involves the study of a variety of compounds, including the small molecules diflunisal and a-tocopherol, as potential inhibitors of TTR aggregation and fibril formation. Furthermore, since TTR-associated amyloid diseases often feature cardiomyopathies, we are also studying the direct and indirect effects of amyloidogenic forms of TTR on cultured primary cardiac cells.

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  • structural
  • electron microscopy