Biophysical Society Bulletin | March 2024


Biological Helpers at the Molecular Level: Cell Stress, Environmental Factors, and Chaperones

chaperones in E. coli, with emphasis on Hsp70. She explained how the Hsp70 chaperone is a heat shock factor that also works under non-stress conditions by facilitating protein folding and delay ing aggregation. Hsp70 is found in most living organisms and performs some of its most inter esting action cotrans lationally and upon nascent-protein release from the ribosome.

In October 2023, the Convention Center of Portland, OR host ed the SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference. SAC NAS is the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispan ics and Native Americans, and it is dedicated to encouraging underrepresented young scientists across the United States to pursue advanced degrees and scholarly research in STEM. In addition to promoting diversity, inclusion, and professional advancement via local-chapter activities and other events, SACNAS holds a yearly National Conference that brings to gether thousands of ethnically underrepresented undergrad uate and graduate students, as well as postdocs, university professors, and industry scientists. The SACNAS National Conference provides attedees with exposure to a wide range of recent scientific concepts and discoveries. In addition, they can visit a large number of exhibitor booths that advertise graduate school programs as well as industry, postdoctoral, and academic jobs available across the United States. At the most recent conference, a biophysics-related event chaired by Silvia Cavagnero , Professor of Chemistry and Bio chemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, focused on the concept of cell stress and molecular chaperones. All presentations were sponsored by the Biophysical Society. Cavagnero started the session by explaining the meaning of the term “biophysics,” which is often regarded as somewhat mysterious by non-experts. She went on to provide examples of what biophysicists do, and how they often synergistically combine computation and experiments to quantitatively un derstand and predict the behavior of biological systems. The session continued with a presentation by Pamela Padilla , past SACNAS President and Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of North Texas. Padilla discussed how diets rich in glucose and other carbohydrates lead to physiological imbalance and stress, ultimately compromising proteostasis and causing metabolic imbalances in C. elegans animal mod els. Cavagnero also introduced the concept of a “molecular chaperone.” Her presentation described the major molecular

The session concluded with a presentation by Rachel Klevit , which traced the step-by-step evolution of her scientific journey—from protein to protein. She shared how her struc tural analysis of cellular function has been primarily carried out by multidimensional nuclear magnetic resonance, due to the ability of this non-perturbative technique to provide information not only on structure but also on local and global dynamics of biomolecules. Towards the end of her presen tation, Klevit explained how she landed on the analysis of the conformation and function of amazing cellular helpers known as small heat-shock proteins (sHSPs). This class of chaperones has long been known to play a role in aggregation prevention. Yet, the study of sHSPs’ mechanism of action has only recently become possible, upon taming their challenging physical properties. In summary, the 2023 SACNAS session on “Cell Stress, En vironmental Factors, and Molecular Chaperones” provided a glimpse of the intricate world of proteostasis, and was very well received by the underrepresented trainees and principal investigators who attended the event.

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March 2024



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