John-Paul Andersen, a 6th year student in the Physiology/Pharmacology discipline of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program, has published several papers recently, one of which was used as the cover art of Molecular Metabolism. He is in Dr. Yuguang Shi’s lab.
Here’s a quick Q&A with John-Paul about his recent achievements.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m originally from Utah and have an undergraduate degree in Biotechnology.
What is your research about?
I have two main focuses in my research. I investigate the function of mitochondria-associated proteins through CRISPR/Cas9 editing. My other focus is on how altering mitochondrial membrane structure can attenuate mitochondrial dysfunction brought on by telomere shortening.
Tell me about your new paper.
In my most recent paper my lab mates and I uncovered a novel function of a gene (Aster-B) which involves transporting cholesterol from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the mitochondria. We discovered a mitochondrial targeting sequence (MTS) at Aster-B’s N-terminus which is responsible for the tethering of the gene between the ER and the mitochondria. When this mitochondrial targeting sequence is removed, the tether between the mitochondria and the ER is removed and the ability of the cell to transfer cholesterol from the ER to the mitochondria is impaired. This discovery is important because cholesterol is the rate-limiting step of steroidogenesis and this primarily occurs in the mitochondria of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands also happen to be where this gene is most heavily expressed. Uncovering the function of this gene will help in understanding diseases involved in adrenal steroidogenesis.
What does it mean to you that your work was used on the cover of Molecular Metabolism?
I was very excited and honored to be used as the cover story for the December issue of Molecular Metabolism. This is my first paper where I am listed as the first co-first author, so I feel very fortunate to be selected for the cover story.
What’s next for your research?
I have now generated over thirty different CRISPR/Cas9 mediated knockout cell lines and I’m hoping to find another lipid trafficking gold nugget like I did with Aster-B. I am also going to continue working on my thesis which involves looking at the effect of telomere shortening on the mitochondria.
What are your career plans?
One of my favorite books is “The Alchemy of Air.” In the book, even though Haber and Bosch had made monumental discoveries they were never satisfied and were always looking ahead to the next big thing. I want to follow their example and continue exploring and making scientific discoveries in whatever way I can whether that be in academia or industry.
What do you like to do outside of school (hobbies)?
I like to play tennis, go swimming and biking. I also am proficient in the Japanese language, so I enjoy Japanese culture and media.