Meet The Researcher: Jessye Castro Researches Protein Associated with Severe Developmental Disorders
Jessye Castro is originally from northeast Texas and moved to San Antonio for college. She attended Trinity University and completed a bachelor of science degree in biology and is currently in a second-year graduate student in the Personalized Molecular Medicine Program in Dr. Sang Lee’s lab.
What is your research about?
My lab was formerly a yeast lab and they discovered the nuclease Apn2. It is one of two endo/exonucleases involved in base excision repair. Once they transitioned to mammalian cells they began to work on the eukaryotic homolog Ape2. Historically, it was thought to be a backup protein for the more well-known BER nuclease, Ape1. However, this protein was found to have novel functions after being shown to associate with several DNA repair proteins including the Fanconi Anemia proteins. The phenotype of Fanconi Anemia is associated with severe developmental disorders. The disorder also predisposes patients to blood cancers. The proteins associated with the disease, FANC proteins, have been found to regulate numerous genome repair functions. I am specifically working on understanding how Ape2 interacts with FANCB, one of 19 FANC proteins in the presence of interstrand crosslinks (ICLs). ICLs are a particularly lethal aberration that covalently links two opposing DNA bases which causes cell death if unrepaired. My thesis will show if there is direct interaction between Apex2 and FANCB, and then if there is, how does it affect cell survival after ICL introduction.
Why is your research important? What would you like the general public to know about it?
Recently, there have been several landmark papers over Ape2. One stating that APEX2 is synthetic lethal with BRCA mutants and another showing that 3′ nuclease activity is important for cell survival. My work could provide a method of action for these results. Either way, if there is no relationship between Ape2 and ICLs it will point us in a new direction. However, should APEX2 play a role in ICL repair it would contribute hugely to chemotherapies for BRCA mutant cancers. Cisplatin is a platinum based anti-cancer drug that creates ICLs specifically. An Ape2 inhibitor used in conjunction with Cisplatin could increase longevity in specific BRCA deficient cancers. Changes of this magnitude are of course a long way off but the potential is there. This is the value of proteomics; you never know where you will find a suitable drug target.
What are your future plans?
I have just applied to graduate school to get my Ph.D. I hope to be in a cancer or molecular biology program. My career goals are to be a medical science liaison and work with a genome testing company. I’m a huge advocate for preventative medicine and I believe screening is the most efficient and effective way to prevent cancer at this time.
What do you like to do outside of school?
Before quarantine, I liked to take weekend trips with my friends or family, but since then I’ve been getting outside a lot more and exploring the parks and trails around San Antonio. I love treasure hunting at antique stores and estate sales. My apartment is kind of a hodge podge of all my finds. I’m also a big foodie. When I have time, I’ll go try a new place. I try to support small/local business as much as possible, but most of the time, I end up just watching movies and reading at home.