Wooster biochemistry and molecular biology major Chelsea Stamm ’11 and James West, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, are on to something big at Wooster.† While studying unsaturated carbonyl compounds here at the College, the researchers found a certain compound was extremely efficient at killing skin cells, according to Director of Public Information John Finn. The study looked at structurally similar molecules that were known to kill skin cells. The researchers hypothesized that the toxicity would be relatively the same across the board. Philip J. Kingsley, an assistant in biochemistry at Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine, was also involved in the study.

However, West, Stamm and Kingsley soon found that a certain molecule used in the study, diethyl acetylenedicarbonate (also known as DAD), was ultimately more effective at killing skin cells than the other molecules they studied. West stated Ïwe found that the molecule can react with one protein and then cross link it with another protein, like molecular glue,Ó compromising the functions of the protein within the cell. West went on to say ÏNone of the other molecules [used in the study] can cross link proteins, which is one way to explain why it is so toxic.Ó

West implied that this new discovery would become invaluably useful in the future as it provides a Ïnew biomedical toolÓ for researchers to work with in their studies. Further, Stamm was recognized by West as a Ïkey playerÓ in the discovery of the usefulness of DAD as a protein cross-linker. In commenting on the significance of DAD as a protein cross linker within skin cells, West said, Ïif we know that a protein in the cell has been modified by DAD, we can begin to ask questions about the other proteins to which it binds and becomes cross-linked … DAD can help us identify these interactions.Ó Using DAD researchers can now pinpoint specific protein structures within a cell, which will make the study of intra-cellular protein interactions more precise in the future. West and Stamm have conducted further trial with DAD and according to West Ïat this point, it’s difficult to predict all of the potential uses of DAD. Stamm commented, ÏIn our follow-up studies, we are using DAD as a chemical tool to ëstaple’ interacting proteins to one anotherÓ which makes identifying cellular proteins easier. The main distinction between the DAD molecule and other molecules which have potent characteristics in skin cells is that the DAD molecule interacts with the functioning of intra-cellular proteins while other molecules interact with structure of the cell itself, according to a Wooster biochemistry and molecular biology student.

For those of you interested in finding out more information about the research conducted by West, Stamm and Kingsley, the research will be published later this month in the journal entitled Chemical Research in Toxicology, a journal of the American Chemical Society. Also, Dr. James West can be contacted at JWest@wooster.edu.