Research Highlight: Dr. Sarisky, Caroline Hunter, Nicholas Plymale, & Kevin Smee

by Kristal Mainsah on November 7, 2019

Some of our fellow RC Maroons were recently published in The PLOS Journal. Dr. Sarisky and 3 recent RC graduates, Caroline Hunter, Nicholas Plymale, and Kevin Smee published their paper “Experimental characterization of two archaea inosine 5′-monophosphate cyclohydrolases”. RC Research had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Sarisky and Caroline Hunter about this accomplishment and their research.

I’m an enzymologist, which means I study enzymes.  With the explosion in the number of sequenced genomes, we have a tremendous amount of genome-level data, but far less experimental characterization.  So we have literally millions upon millions of apparent genes, whose enzymes have been labeled by a computer (sometimes vaguely) about what they might do, but very few have been actually characterized at the protein level. In this paper, my students and I looked at a couple of enzymes called “inosine 5′-monophosphate cyclohydrolases” from two species of archaea.  These enzymes had never been characterized before, and their gene assignments were based on pretty distant relationships.  These enzymes are interesting because they close up the second ring needed to make purines (those are the As and Gs of DNA), and because they’re from organisms that live at very high temperatures.  One of the two enzymes ended up being most active at 80 degrees C (which was as high as we could measure).  That was pretty interesting, since lots of proteins are unfolded (and non functional) at that temperature. 

—Dr. Sarisky

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Roanoke College, from the fantastic classes, to professors, to the extra-curricular activities; however, none of these were comparable to my research experience in Dr. Sarisky’s lab. From the first day I stepped into her lab to do my summer research project, I fell in love with research and my life wasn’t the same. I planned on going to medical school after graduation, but after doing research, trying to answer a question no one has before, I realized that this was my passion. Not only was our research project “Experimental characterization of two archaeal inosine 5′-monophosphate cyclohydrolases” fascinating to me, but it also gave me invaluable cognitive and laboratory skills that set me apart from other applicants when applying to graduate school as well as provided me with a strong foundation for my own PhD research project at Marshall University School of Medicine. I am forever grateful for the experience I had at RC, especially doing research with Dr. Sarisky, and am thrilled that our research was published for others to see. For the students who aren’t sure if they want to do research, my advice is try it, you never know how it will turn out.

—Caroline Hunter

Here is the link to their research if you would like to check it out. Congratulations to our fellow maroons!!!

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0223983

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