Closing comments

In Dr. Allison’s lab this summer, I worked on a team studying the transport of the thyroid hormone receptor α. Our project is ongoing, intending to explore which importins bind to TRa and characterize how they bind to the receptor. Importins are proteins that can bind to cargo in response to specific signals that direct transport into the nucleus; we wanted to study which importins bind to TRa, as well as what parts of TRα are important in transport between the nucleus and the cytoplasm.

Most of this summer was spent on generating fusion proteins – TRα or pieces of TRα with a specific peptide tag – for use in future studies. In order to do so, we had to insert the gene encoding TRα into a plasmid, or a small, circular piece of DNA, and transform the plasmid into bacteria. The plasmid would be replicated as the bacteria reproduced, generating large amounts of DNA. After transferring our insert to another plasmid – this one also encoding the peptide tags we wished to add to the protein – we would be able to express our protein.

This summer, protein expression proved somewhat difficult, but we managed to make progress. Working on it this summer made me realize how much time and care needs to go into an experiment; sometimes, it takes a lot of patience, thought, and trial and error in order to complete an experiment. Still, we managed to learn from each time we expressed protein, and after consulting others, we are looking forward to a successful semester this year.

This semester, we are looking forward to expressing and purifying our protein in order to complete future experiments. After we optimize our procedure for protein expression for each construct, we can move on to purifying that protein; this semester, we hope to focus on this part of the procedure.

Though my original project fell through, at least for the time being, I was lucky enough to learn a lot this summer, both about practical techniques and about research as a process. I think that I am better prepared this semester to move on with this project, to solve problems, and to learn from others. I am optimistic about this semester, and am looking forward to progressing with our project.