Yury Polikanov Receives New Grant Awards

Dr. Polikanov

Dr. Yury Polikanov, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has been awarded $1.25 million in NIH-R01 and $700,000 in NSF-MCB grant funds for his research into the ribosome.

His proposed project for the NIH-R01 aims to unravel the fundamental principles underlying site-specific mode of action of chloramphenicol, erythromycin and other clinically-relevant drugs, which target the catalytic core of the ribosome. Protein synthesis inhibitors that target this core are among the most successful antimicrobial drugs used to treat human bacterial infections. It has been assumed for decades that these antibiotics interfere with the formation of every single peptide bond the ribosome makes; however, several recent studies indicated that many of these inhibitors, including the most common chloramphenicol and erythromycin inhibit the synthesis of proteins in a context-specific way. Dr. Polikanov’s proposed project will use cutting-edge X-ray crystallography technique to provide an atomic-level view of the ribosome combined with biochemical and chemical synthetic approaches.

Dr. Polikanov’s NSF-MCB project may also have medical implication for the development of new classes of antimicrobial drugs as well as therapeutics against human genetic disorders linked to premature termination (such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, etc.). Translation termination – a fundamental biological process, which is conservative from bacteria to human – ensures that all expressed proteins have lengths strictly defined by their genes. This process is mediated by the release factors, which catalyze the release of newly synthesized proteins from the ribosome, and is tightly regulated to prevent the accumulation of truncated or overly long proteins that can either be toxic to a cell or merely non-functional. Dr. Polikanov’s proposed research project aims to elucidate the molecular mechanism exploited by the release factors.