Mentors: Angela Koehler and Rakhee Busanelli, Chemical Biology program
Within the cell, a protein complex called NF-kB is a key regulator in many physiological processes, including control of immune responses, cell death, and the wild proliferation that leads to tumors.
Discovering small molecule probes that can modulate the activity of this transcription factor is of great interest to the oncologists. Using small-molecule microarrays we discovered a natural product known as phytohormone that has been shown to interact directly with NF-kB. To better understand how this inhibitor works in cancer cells, we investigated its effect on the NF-kB pathway using secondary biochemical and cellular assays. Tests showed that this phytohormone caused a temporary decrease in NF-kB translocation, which can be a factor in the genesis of tumor cells. Another test, which measured toxicity, showed that the phytohormone did not affect cell viability.
"Before working at the Broad institute, I had a vague understanding of how research was approached beyond what I had experienced working at several academic institutions... I had been convinced that genomic research was a saturated field with no promising scientific inquiries to go after. Coming here convinced me that that the amalgamation of genomic, proteomic, and chemical biology research is shaping the future of our generation, in terms of how future scientists will tackle science; not from a conventional stand-point, but in collaboration with minds from diverse academic backgrounds going after big questions."
Amalchi Castillo Rodriguez, a fourth-year student in chemical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, explored the NF-kB pathway.