Congratulations Dr. Iga Kucharska of the University of Virginia, Winner of the Inaugural Gordon Hammes Scholar Award

The Gordon Hammes Scholar Award honors the young scientists responsible for the very best papers published in Biochemistry. Dr. Iga Kucharska was selected from a large applicant pool on the basis of a Viewpoint she submitted that highlights her first-author paper in Biochemistry entitled, “Molecular Interactions of Lipopolysaccharide with an Outer Membrane Protein from Pseudomonas aeruginosa Probed by Solution NMR.”

Kucharska received an M.S. degree in biotechnology from Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, Poland in 2011. Afterward, she started her Ph.D. in the laboratory of Dr. Lukas Tamm at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Her thesis work focused on detailed structural and functional characterization of two outer membrane proteins from Pseudomonas aeruginosa – OprG and OprH. Kucharska solved the NMR structure of OprG and discovered that it is a porin for small amino acid transport. She also investigated the binding of lipopolysaccharide to OprH, which provides increased stability to the outer membranes of P. aeruginosa.

As Kucharska explains, “Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen that infects cystic fibrosis and immunocompromised patients. The outer membrane protein H (OprH) of P. aeruginosa provides an increased stability to the outer membrane by directly interacting with lipopolysaccharides (LPS). In our study, we used solution NMR spectroscopy, site-directed mutagenesis and ELISA to characterize the interactions between LPS and OprH in molecular detail. We discovered that the interaction is mediated through the extracellular loops and a number of highly conserved basic residues near the extracellular barrel rim of OprH. The results of this study offer new insight into protein-lipid interactions that likely contribute to the antibiotic resistance of P. aeruginosa.

Kucharska was awarded her Ph.D. in 2016. Currently, she is a postdoc in the laboratory of Dr. Owen Pornillos at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, where she investigates the role of HIV-1 protein Gag in viral assembly and maturation.

Kucharska will present a talk describing her research and receive her award during the Gordon Hammes ACS Biochemistry Symposium on Sunday, August 20, 2017, a very exciting event organized for the 254th ACS National Meeting & Exposition in Washington, D.C. We hope to see you there.

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