University of New Hampshire
McNair Scholar, 2023
Major: Genetics and French
Mentor: Dr. Feixia Chu
Research Title: Determining the Effect of Acetylation and Deacetylation of Lysine 56 in Histone Protein H3 on Embryonic Stem Cell Stemness
Since the discovery of cancer stem cells in 1994 and the discovery of embryonic stem cells in 1998, research on these subjects has been rapidly expanding (Lapidot et al., 1994; Thompson et al., 1998). With the newer tool that is in the epigenetic field, significant stem cell research currently focuses on the influence of epigenetic markings, such as acetylation -- the addition of an acetyl group, "a small molecule made of two carbon, three hydrogen, and one oxygen atoms," to DNA -- or lack thereof, on the genetic coding of these special cells (National Cancer Institute). The proposed research deals with histone proteins, proteins around which DNA is wrapped, and the specific amino acid lysine, which is positively charged. The purpose is to further understand the consequences of acetylation of the 56th lysine on histone protein H3 regarding stemness of cells, that is the ability to differentiate into any type of cell and to multiply indefinitely. Mutant (cells that have an altered genome to emulate an unacetylated 56th lysine on H3) and wild type cells will be analyzed utilizing mCherry-tagging, MNase digestion, SDS-PAGE, and LS-MS coupled with online databases. The analysis will be focused on the difference of protein composition and histone modification of each type of cell. The expected outcome will be for unacetylated mutants to have a lower concentration of other proteins that are related to stemness, such as Oct4, SOX2, and NANOG, indicating that the acetylation of H3K56 may play a fundamental role in maintaining stem cell qualities (Swain et al., 2020). The proposed research will be helpful for further experiments done on stem cells, embryonic, cancer, or induced, and could potentially lead to breakthroughs in cancer therapy by either proving or disproving a connection between H3K56ac and cell stemness.