Stephanie Wey, Biology

Response to Protein Misfolding: How Plants Provide Insight into Human Disease Pathology

 All living organisms need proteins to survive. Yet, proteins are susceptible to damage by stressors. In humans, misfolded proteins contribute to the pathology of many neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. To examine a fundamental process by which many organisms cope with protein misfolding, I have conducted a classical genetics experiment in a simple flowering plant named Arabidopsis. When exposed to heat stress, plants activate the heat shock response, in which heat shock proteins are activated to help misfolded proteins regain proper structure and function. By breaking two genes involved in the phenomenon, I found that they were acting through independent pathways to regulate the response. Gaining knowledge of genetic networks governing such basic processes may provide a foundation for research towards promising treatments for relevant diseases.