G-protein discoveries

December 19th, 2018in Departmental News, Research News

The Garcia-Marcos lab has recently published two studies in the Journal of Biological Chemistry on the topic of heterotrimeric G protein signaling. Marcin Maziarz, a postdoctoral fellow in the Garcia-Marcos lab, is the first author in both of them. The first study, which was selected as an Editors’ Pick, describes a novel pipeline for the discovery and validation of G protein activators that are not GPCRs, which are the “classic” G protein activators. By screening candidate cytoplasmic proteins containing a putative Gα-binding-and-activating (GBA) motif and using various in vitro and cell-based assays, the lab identified PLCδ4b as a new non-receptor G protein activator.

In the second study, the lab interrogated the mechanism of action of mutant G proteins known to drive uveal melanoma, a cancer of the eye which lacks effective therapies. Interestingly, they found that one frequent mutation, Q209P in the G protein Gαq, leads to G protein activation through a unique and unanticipated mechanism that could be leveraged to develop novel therapeutics for this cancer type.

Nelson Lau named director of the Genome Science Institute

December 14th, 2018in Departmental News, Research News

Dean Karen Antman annouced today that Nelson Lau, PhD, has been named Director of the Genome Science Institute (GSI), effective Jan. 1, 2019. An Associate Professor of Biochemistry, Dr. Lau’s research focuses on genetic and epigenetic regulation of the genome by transposons. He came to BUSM in 2017 from Brandeis University. Prior to working at Brandeis, he was a post-doc with Robert Kingston at MGH/Harvard. He received his PhD with David Bartell at MIT/Whitehead. Please join the Department in congratulating Dr. Lau on his appointment.

New Research Discoveries: Prions and Synaptic Toxicity

October 5th, 2018in Departmental News, Research News

In a new research study from the Harris laboratory in PLOS pathogens, first author Cheng Feng and collaborators defined a new pathway mediated by the p38 MAPK signaling pathway that was important for prion synaptic toxicity. Furthermore this research identified that perturbations in the actin cytoskeleton within dendritic spines resulted in deficits in synaptic transmission.

This study has received significant press coverage and appeared on the cover of PLOS pathogens.

Congratulations Harris lab.

New Faculty Positions

September 15th, 2018in Departmental News


The Department of Biochemistry at Boston University School of Medicine, in collaboration with the Genome Science Institute, is undertaking a major expansion in the areas of genetics and genomics, including the application of genetic/genomic techniques to key problems in cell biology. We invite applications at the Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor levels. Several positions are available, and these will be highly competitive with regard to start-up funds, space, and salary.

We are interested in creative scientists working in a broad range of research areas, including, but are not limited to, chromatin structure and function, epigenetics, RNA biology, single-cell genomics, metabolic regulation, control of gene expression, DNA damage and repair, stem cells/development, and cancer genomics. We welcome applications from individuals utilizing genetically tractable model organisms, novel computational/bioinformatic approaches, and functional genomic methods (e.g., CRISPR/Cas screening) to address significant cell biological problems. The position requires a Ph.D. or M.D., and relevant postdoctoral experience.

Over the past several years, the Department of Biochemistry has enjoyed a major transformation in its personnel and infrastructure, including hiring of eight new faculty members at all levels, renovation of 35,000 square feet of research space, and establishment of a new Center for Network Systems Biology focused on proteomics and protein interaction networks. These changes have dramatically expanded the scope of our research efforts beyond those of a traditional biochemistry department, to include “big data” approaches (genomics, proteomics), studies of non-coding RNAs, and use of new model organisms (zebrafish, C. elegans, Xenopus, Drosophila). The department has long-standing strengths in the areas of metabolism, obesity, and diabetes, and virtually every faculty member does work with important translational applications. The department now encompasses six thematic research concentrations: Development, Cell Biology, Genomics, Neuroscience, Metabolism, and Proteomics/Glycomics.

Applicants should submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, statement of research interests, and list of publications through Academic Jobs Online.

Candidates at the Assistant Professor level should provide a minimum of three letters of recommendation at the time of application. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, but should be submitted by October 31, 2018 for full consideration. Please direct email queries to biochem@bu.edu.

Boston University is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer.



Barbara Schreiber Appointed as Assistant Dean

July 27th, 2018in Departmental News

Dr. Schreiber has recently been appointed as Assistant Dean GMS Alumni Affairs.

As the Assistant Dean for GMS Alumni Affairs, Dr. Schreiber will be responsible for:

  • Serving as a liaison between GMS and the BUSM Office of Alumni Affairs representing GMS students and alumni in outreach efforts
  • Coordinating and attending GMS alumni events and BUSM-wide events that include GMS alumni with the BUSM alumni office staff and deans
  • Helping to identify GMS and other BUSM PhD alumni candidates for an annual award
  • Developing a comprehensive database for PhD alumni
  • Enabling a PhD alumni network that can offer support for doctoral and post-doctoral trainees in their professional development

Dr. Schreiber came to BUSM in 1975 as a graduate student in Microbiology and earned her PhD in Microbiology in 1981. She was a post-doctoral trainee in Clinical Microbiology at University Hospital from 1981-83 and a postdoctoral fellow in Biochemistry from 1983-87. Dr. Schreiber was appointed research assistant professor in 1987, research associate professor in 1997 and associate professor in 1999.

Dr. Schreiber currently serves as director of Biochemistry graduate studies, director of the GMS Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS), and course manager of the biochemistry class taught to first-year BU dental students and Oral Health Sciences students. Additionally, Dr. Schreiber is one of the co-PIs on the NIH-funded BU’s BEST award, dedicated to broadening experiences in biomedical science training for our PhD students and post-doctoral trainees.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Schreiber on her latest appointment as Associate Dean, GMS Alumni Affairs.

Dr. Cathy Costello honored with special issue in The Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry

July 16th, 2018in Departmental News, Research News
Costello lab
Costello Laboratory: Dr. Costello is waving.

In recognition of Dr. Catherine Costello's 2017 ASMS Award for a Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry, the entire June 2018 issue focused on Mass Spectrometry in Glycobiology and Related Fields and was a tribute to Dr. Costello's numerous contributions to the field. The first article in this issue written by Joe Zaia and Veronica Bierbaum describes Dr. Costello's vision and leadership in glycoscience mass spectrometry.

Please also read about the current research in the Costello lab.

New Software Developed for Glycosaminoglycan Analysis

The Zaia laboratory's recent study: “Software for peak finding and elemental composition assignment for glycosaminoglycan tandem mass spectra” has been selected to appear in a special virtual issue of ASBMB journal content on Omics of lipids, glycans and polar metabolites. This paper was selected from hundreds of papers and best represents the exciting advances made in studying these systems over the last three years.Zaia

Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) covalently linked to proteoglycans are characterized by repeating disaccharide units and variable sulfation patterns along the chain. The Zaia laboratory and others have demonstrated the usefulness of tandem mass spectrometry (MS2) for assigning the structures of GAG saccharides; however, manual interpretation of tandem mass spectra is time-consuming, so computational methods must be employed. The Zaia group developed GAGfinder, the first tandem mass spectrum peak finding algorithm developed specifically for GAGs. GAGfinder is a targeted, brute force approach to spectrum analysis that utilizes precursor composition information to generate all theoretical fragments. GAGfinder also performs peak isotope composition annotation, which is typically a subsequent step for averagine-based methods.



Valentina Perissi Promotion

June 4th, 2018in Departmental News

The Department would like to congratulate Dr. Valentina Perissi on her recent promotion to AssociateVP2017Professor of Biochemistry. This is a well-deserved honor. Please read more about the ongoing research in the Perissi lab.