Navigation Links
NSF grant boosts research on proteins that affect fertility

SAN FRANCISCO - March 25, 2013 -- NSF grant to SF State professor boosts research on proteins that affect fertility

Infertility among men is a complex disorder that scientists are still trying to understand. Professor of Biology Diana Chu studies one factor that affects male fertility, and her research has attracted a new grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

In 2006, Chu identified new proteins found in sperm cells that that are critical for sperm to function properly. Since then she has been using a simple model organism, the tiny worm C. elegans, to find out more about how these sperm-specific proteins work.

"Sperm cells are unique," Chu said. "They have to be able to swim and deliver their genetic information when they fertilize an egg."

Chu studies proteins that package DNA so that it fits properly inside a sperm cell. These specialized proteins play a vital role in the creation of sperm and the successful delivery of DNA to a fertilized egg.

With her three-year NSF grant of $668,000, Chu and colleagues will explore how the chemical structure of sperm proteins affects how sperm DNA is packaged and interpreted. For these new biochemistry studies, she will collaborate with Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Raymond Esquerra and Geeta Narilkar from University of California, San Francisco.

Inside sperm cells, long strands of DNA are wrapped around clusters of proteins in a formation that looks like beads on a necklace.

"The proteins that wrap DNA can fit together in different combinations, much like Lego blocks," Chu said. "The combinations of these proteins help the DNA to be read properly."

The interaction between the DNA and the proteins determines which genes are turned on or off in the sperm cell, influencing whether the sperm can function. The researchers want to find out what happens if one of the proteins is missing or altered.

"We'll remove one protein at a time and see whether the proteins can substitute for one another," Chu said. "If they can, it means that an animal whose sperm is missing one protein may still be able to reproduce. But if you're missing more than one protein you may be sterile."

This would explain what Chu and her students have observed in the lab. They created a mutant worm that was missing one sperm protein. The worm was able to reproduce but it produced 30-40 percent less offspring than typical worms.

"Sperm cells might have this safety mechanism that kicks in when one protein is missing, but that missing protein could still have implications later on, for example problems conceiving, miscarriage or birth defects."

Also funded by the NSF grant, Chu and her graduate students will continue their studies of tiny worms, observing what happens to the worms' reproduction when they have a different mix of proteins in their sperm.

"Our findings will help us understand more about fertility in humans and other animals," Chu said. "We hope they will also help researchers to answer broader scientific questions about how genes can be turned on and off through a subtle change in a single protein."

Chu's latest grant comes after her 2011 discovery of a group of enzymes that help worm sperm to develop and move. Her work has attracted several NSF grants, including the agency's prestigious CAREER award as well as funding for a state-of-the-art microscope at SF State.

Contact: Elaine Bible
San Francisco State University

Related biology news :

1. Brain & Behavior Research Foundation awards nearly $4 million in new NARSAD grants
2. Impressive list of research teams for the 2013 HFSP Research Grants
3. Forsyth Institute receives $4.1 million grant for new center
4. Astronomer gets grant to better measure mysterious black holes
5. Einstein receives $12 million grant to develop device for preventing HIV infection
6. New grants to innovation corps nodes further enhance public-private partnership
7. NIH grant funds Boston College research into illnesses afflicting people living with HIV
8. Environmental factors determine whether immigrants are accepted by cooperatively breeding animals
9. Brainwave "Balancing" Research Receives $1 Million Grant From The Susanne Marcus Collins Foundation, Inc.
10. Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation grants prestigious awards to 17 young scientists
11. Grant to fund development of drug candidates for rheumatoid arthritis, neurodegenerative disorders
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... ARBOR, Mich. , Oct. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... Eurofins Genomics for U.S. distribution of its DNA ... DNA-seq kit and Rubicon,s new ThruPLEX Plasma-seq kit. ... to enable the preparation of NGS libraries for ... plasma for diagnostic and prognostic applications in cancer ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... , Oct. 27, 2015 In the present ... of concern for various industry verticals such as banking, ... to the growing demand for secure & simplified access ... ,sectors, such as hacking of bank accounts, misuse of ... equipment such as PC,s, laptops, and smartphones are expected ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... LAS VEGAS , Oct. 26, 2015 ... an innovator in modern authentication and a founding member ... launch of its latest version of the Nok Nok™ ... to use standards-based authentication that supports existing and emerging ... Suite is ideal for organizations deploying customer-facing applications that ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 HemoShear Therapeutics, ... discovering drugs for metabolic disorders, announced today the ... its Board of Directors (BOD). Mr. Watkins is ... Human Genome Sciences (HGS), and also served as ... Jim Powers , Chairman and CEO of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , November 24, 2015 , ... in a European healthcare ... the companies will work closely together in identifying European breakthrough ... medical need. The collaboration is underpinned by a significant investment ... This is the first investment by Bristol-Myers Squibb in a ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... According to two new studies, fewer men are ... that many doctors, scientists, and public health experts have been ... PSA tests being done, will there be more men dying ... Samadi, "Despite the efforts made in regards to early ... cancer cause of death in men, killing approximately 27,500 men ...
(Date:11/23/2015)... THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Nov. 23, 2015   Ceres, ... company, announced today financial results for the fiscal year ... its business. --> --> ... on commercializing forage and feed products with a better ... the company signed distribution agreements with several leading crop ...
Breaking Biology Technology: