If you've ever tried to put hot sauce on your taco and drive at the same time, you'll know organization is key. You need to position the taco and hot sauce at the right angle before leaving the drive through or else you'll end up with some spicy carpeting.
Inside bacterial cells, similar feats of coordination take place to keep important chemical reactions in motion. Proteins responsible for cellular communication have to bump into each other at specific locations inside the cell, and enzymes that make important molecules and nutrients need to pass chemical intermediates back and forth. But bacteria don't have handy internal cup holders to keep their proteins in the same physical space. So how do they position all these proteins at the right angles and locations in the cell?
A special class of proteins, called scaffolds, is responsible for coordinating many of these moving parts. Inside bacterial cells, scaffolds are located where important activities take place. They bind the proteins responsible for communication or synthesizing nutrients, bring these proteins to the right part of the cell, and hold them in close proximity to one another-that way they can interact. I'm studying scaffold proteins in a wide range of bacterial species to learn general principles about how they work, and I'm using these principles to design synthetic scaffold proteins. Eventually, I'm hoping to use synthetic scaffolds to regulate bacterial cell communication and biosynthetic processes.
BS in Biochemistry, John Brown University (Siloam Spring, AR), May 2016
PhD Advisor: Seth Childers
University of Pittsburgh
Department of Chemistry
219 Parkman Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
email: SEW96 [at] pitt.edu