Newton South High School
Newton, MA

Shayan Sadre
Medical and Population Genetics

One of the most popular organelles is the mitochondria. If you asked anyone what a mitochondrion is, you would most likely get “powerhouse of the cell” as the response. 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. Perla, with her partner Khush, set out to determine METTL17’s role in mitochondrial translation. To try and get at METTL17s exact role, Perla performed bioinformatics analysis and noticed METTL17 had a region, called a SAM binding motif, that was highly conserved in different species. She then created METTL17 mutants with the SAM binding motif deleted and determined if this modification affected other aspects of mitochondrial biology. She 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, she identified a decrease in cellular respiration. Taken together, her results highlight a role for METTL17 in the translation of certain oxidative phosphorylation complexes mediated by its SAM binding motif. Perla’s work established the first steps to try and elucidate the molecular mechanism by which METTL17 achieves its function. Being part of BSSP taught Perla many things. She notes that “it has made me realize that I can pursue everything I'm interested in and more.” Overall, BSSP solidified Perla’s interest in pursuing a career in science and provided a stepping stone to embark on her journey. “Everything I have learned here I will take with me and remember all the great experiences and connections I made.”