Boston College High School
Boston, MA

Shayan Sadre
Medical and Population Genetics

Like many students, Khush’s love for science started in school. “In our science classes, we would do various experiments which I really enjoyed because of the hands-on nature compared to other classes.” Following his teacher’s advice, Khush decided to apply to the BSSP. As part of BSSP, Khush worked trying to understand processes that happen in the powerhouse of the cell: the mitochondria. The mitochondria gets its reputation due to it being the center of ATP production, the energy currency in our cells. This energy production occurs during a process called oxidative phosphorylation (also known as cellular respiration), which consists of a series of reactions mediated by different complexes that ultimately ends with ATP production. Mitochondrial protein production is extremely important for ATP production. One key player in this process is a protein called METTL17. Not much is known about the specific role METTL17 plays in mitochondrial protein translation. Khush, with his partner Perla, set out to determine METTL17’s role in mitochondrial translation. To try and get at METTL17s exact role, Khush performed bioinformatics analysis and noticed METTL17 had a region, called a SAM binding motif, that was highly conserved in different species. He then created METTL17 mutants with the SAM binding motif deleted and determined if this modification affected other aspects of mitochondrial biology. He realized that mutating this region led to a decrease in the levels of different protein complexes involved in cellular respiration. Additionally, by measuring oxidative phosphorylation, he identified a decrease in cellular respiration. Taken together, his results highlight a role for METTL17 in the translation of certain oxidative phosphorylation complexes mediated by its SAM binding motif. His work established the first steps to try and elucidate the molecular mechanism by which METTL17 achieves its function. Khush’s favorite part of the summer was the scientific process—from making a scientific observation, designing an experiment, and finally, presenting his results. “I really enjoyed the lab environment, carrying out different experiments and presenting your findings to your peers.” Additionally, he highlights the collaborative atmosphere present at the Broad. “It's really just great to be in a place with such great scientists that are open to having a conversation!”