Nerve agents are a class of organophosphorus compounds (OPs) that blocks communication between nerves and organs. Because of their acute neurotoxicity, it is extremely difficult to rescue the victims after exposure. Numerous efforts have been devoted to search for an effective prophylactic nerve agent bioscavenger to prevent the deleterious effects of these compounds. However, low scavenging efficiency, unfavorable pharmacokinetics, and…
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The Vaginal Microbiome of Transgender Men

Hormonal changes influence the composition of vaginal flora, which is directly related to the health of an individual. Transgender men prescribed testosterone experience a vaginal hormone composition that differs from cisgender women. To the author’s knowledge, there are no clinical studies evaluating the influence that testosterone administration has on the vaginal microbiome. Vaginal swabs were self-collected by a cohort of…
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Neutrophils release neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in response to invading pathogens. Although NETs play an important role in host defense against microbial pathogens, they have also been shown to play a contributing mechanistic role in pathologic inflammation in the absence of infection. Although a role for NETs in bacterial pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is emerging, a comprehensive…
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De novo cardiomyogenesis is limited to ≈1% per year in the adult mammalian heart.1 Whether newly formed cardiomyocytes are derived from division of pre-existing myocytes or from differentiation of resident cardiac progenitor cells is a topic of debate. Cardiac progenitor cells have been posited as a source of endogenous cardiomyocyte renewal and as cells that can be harvested, expanded in vitro,…
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Specificity of interactions between two DNA strands, or between protein and DNA, is often achieved by varying bases or side chains coming off the DNA or protein backbone—for example, the bases participating in Watson–Crick pairing in the double helix, or the side chains contacting DNA in TALEN–DNA complexes. By contrast, specificity of protein–protein interactions usually involves backbone shape complementarity1, which…
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The HIV-1 trans-activator protein Tat binds the trans-activation response element (TAR) to facilitate recruitment of the super elongation complex (SEC) to enhance transcription of the integrated pro-viral genome. The Tat-TAR interaction is critical for viral replication and the emergence of the virus from the latent state, therefore, inhibiting this interaction has long been pursued to discover new anti-viral or latency reversal…
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Clinical Potential of Mass Spectrometry-Based Proteogenomics

Cancer genomics research aims to advance personalized oncology by finding and targeting specific genetic alterations associated with cancers. In genome-driven oncology, treatments are selected for individual patients on the basis of the findings of tumour genome sequencing. This personalized approach has prolonged the survival of subsets of patients with cancer. However, many patients do not respond to the predicted therapies…
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Our lab studies DNA break repair and genetic recombination in bacteria (E. coli) and fission yeast (S. pombe) using both genetic and biochemical methods.  When their DNA is broken, cells must repair it or they die.  Successful repair often employs homologous recombination, the generation of new combinations of gene alleles that provide the diversity for evolution to proceed efficiently.  During sex cell formation (meiosis) DNA is programmed to be broken...
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One major focus of our research is to understand the role of selective protein destruction in eukaryotic biology and human diseases. Just like protein synthesis, protein degradation is tightly controlled in all eukaryotic organisms and is frequently involved in the regulation of diverse cellular functions. We are interested in dissecting how different cellular signals induce specific protein degradation in human cells, thereby, mediating various biological processes, such as cell cycle progression, tissue differentiation, stress response, and circadian rhythm...
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Gene Inversion Potentiates Bacterial Evolvability and Virulence

The research in Houra Merrikh’s lab is focused on bacterial DNA replication, repair, mutagenesis, and evolution. Our studies on DNA replication are focused on identifying the way cells handle the inevitable collisions between the replication and transcription machineries. We have found that these events increase mutagenesis in a gene-specific manner and increase the ability of bacteria to rapidly evolve. These discoveries have helped us identify important molecular mechanisms that allow bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance...
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