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3rd Place, 2013

Crystals: Clarity in refraction

Akshay Pandey, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics

"Protein crystallography is an art within the sciences." -Anonymous

Creating the basic design of a drug that can target a particular protein or complex of proteins requires the information of the basic structure of the molecule. Protein crystallography is one of the earliest and effective methods to have contributed to the development of drugs. My research goal is to study the role of FoxM1 protein in cancer. FoxM1 has been observed to be overexpressed in all types of cancer and has been shown to contribute very significantly in cancer's progression. Another protein Arf has been shown to bind to FoxM1 and relocate it to nucleolus where it is rendered inactive. Our lab has developed a small peptide fragment of Arf that binds FoxM1 and relocates it to nucleolus just as the endogenous Arf protein. This negates the effect of overexpressed FoxM1. This could potentially lead to the development of a drug that target FoxM1 without any adverse effects. It is one of the goals of my research to crystallize the Arf-FoxM1 complex and find the structure of the co-crystal.

I had no experience with crystallography till a while back when I registered for the course offered by Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics department, Structures of Biopolymers, where I had my first hands on experience with protein crystallography as a part of an assignment. The image here shows multiple crystals of the protein lysozyme suspended in the drop where their nucleation started. All the crystal, though of same shape, appear to be different when seen suspended in a different orientation, both in shape and color. The different colors and shades are result of monochromatic light's diffraction as it passes through the crystals suspended in multiple different orientations. I am sure this learning will help me a long way in reaching my said goal and research in general.