Three FWF accolades for MFPL labs

08/08/2017

Group leaders Thomas Leonard and Bojan Zagrovic were awarded an FWF standalone grant each, while postdoc Linda Trübestein received a Hertha Firnberg postdoctoral fellowship.

Thomas’ standalone grant will support his project on the “Structure, function and regulation of Protein Kinase D (PKD)”. This essential protein kinase is involved in the regulation of fundamental processes, such as cell proliferation, differentiation and immune regulation.  
Thomas explains: “While not as extensively studied as its more famous cousin, PKC, the control of PKD signaling has important implications for glucose homeostasis and immune cell signaling, as well as links to certain cancers. This grant will enable us to continue the progress we have already made towards understanding what this kinase does and how it does it.” 

The project that Bojan will study is entitled “2’ vs. 3’ aminoacylation in biological translation”. It revolves around tRNAs, a crucial element in the translation apparatus within cells. Amino acids can attach at two different locations on tRNAs, however, what the specific attachment point then implies in the context of both present-day translation mechanism and its evolutionary predecessors remains unclear. “To unravel this mystery, we will employ a wide palette of advanced computational and experimental approaches. Given the fundamental role of tRNAs in biology, we expect that the results of our project could have broad impact. We are particularly excited about the possibility that our research could shed light on how biological translation evolved to begin with,” Bojan elucidates. 

Linda, postdoc in the Leonard lab, received the Hertha Firnberg postdoctoral fellowship for her proposal “Regulation of the cytoskeleton by DMPK-family kinases”. This proposal will build on Linda’s recent discovery that these kinases are not regulated by canonical mechanisms, but rather by the spatial positioning of their catalytic domains (NAT COMMUN;6:10029).
“The DMPK family of kinases are essential for regulation of the cytoskeleton. Mutations in the gene that encodes one of these kinases is a major cause of myotonic dystrophy. However, it is still unclear precisely how the activity of these kinases is regulated in the cell. My project will attempt to elucidate the control mechanisms that restrict the activity of these kinases to specific locations in the cell,” Linda adds.

The FWF will support the labs at the MFPL with these three grants amounting to about one million Euros. Congratulations to everyone involved!