Today marked the final lecture for the Winter 2013 edition of Signal Transduction (BIOC 4031).

Signal Transduction is a course that explores the regulation of metabolism and physiology by a process stemming from a ligand-receptor interaction, typically at the cell surface, and propagating through the cell machinery to metabolic enzymes, transcription factors, DNA packaging proteins, and cell structural proteins. The course was significantly revamped this semester and is different from any previous version of this course, owing to Chris’ extensive background in cell signaling and post-translational modification. As part of his revamp, Chris broke the course into three main “phases.” Each phase had lecture material delivered by Chris, followed by student presentations and papers which grew in complexity as the course progressed; no midterms or final exams were used in this course, and thus the course was entirely rooted in independent student work and problem-solving.

Phase I focused on the post-translational modification of target proteins, and consisted of the following lecture topics:

  • Phosphoproteins
  • Protein kinases, the modifying enzymes of phosphorylation
  • Protein phosphatases, the demodifying enzymes of phosphorylation

Students then gave 10-minute presentations and wrote 1,000-word papers on the following Phase I topics:

  • Nitrosylation
  • Sulfation
  • Citrullination
  • Ubiquitination
  • SUMOylation
  • Acylation e.g. acetylation
  • Addition of lipid moieties e.g. palmitoylation
  • Alkylation e.g. methylation
  • Addition of nucleotide-based moieties e.g. ADP-ribosylation
  • Glycosylation

A review lecture of student presentations was conducted, which then brought us into Phase II of the course, where the following topics were covered:

  • A general overview of signaling receptors and the recurring elements of signal transduction pathways
  • Insulin receptor signaling and effects on metabolic enzymes, glucose metabolism, and the physiology of energy storage; Akt and its prominence in insulin signaling and other pathways
  • T cell receptor signaling and effects on transcriptional regulation and the activation of adaptive immunity; the ubiquity of the transcription factors NFAT and NFκB, and their role in a multitude of cellular processes
  • Crosstalk between signaling pathways, such as energy storage (insulin) versus energy mobilization (AMPK), and insulin versus inflammation/innate immunity

Students then gave 15-minute presentations and wrote 2000-word papers on the following Phase II topics (chosen by the students):

  • Phosphorylation of microtubule tau protein and neuronal plasticity
  • Phosphorylation of caspase-9 and apoptosis
  • Phosphorylation of acetyl-CoA carboxylase and fatty acid metabolism
  • Phosphorylation and ubiquitination of BRCA in DNA damage repair and cell cycle checkpoints
  • Phosphorylation of JAK3 in T cell activation
  • Phosphorylation of CREB protein in long-term memory and synaptic function
  • Phosphorylation of atMAPK4 in salinity response in plants
  • Phosphorylation of pyruvate dehydrogenase in glucose and energy metabolism
  • Phosphorylation of histone H3 in cell cycle
  • Phosphorylation of BAD in apoptosis

Phase III of the course including the following topics:

  • A general overview of signal transduction-based pathologies
  • Self-perpetuation of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, inflammation and innate immunity, and glucagon stimulation by accumulation of ketone bodies
  • Genetic causes of cancer, and their resulting impacts on signal transduction and apoptosis; DNA repair proteins, cytoskeletal proteins, apoptotic proteins, and proliferative transcription factors downstream of Akt
  • Links between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease; hyperinsulinemia, amyloid-β and insulin-degrading enzyme; GSK3 and tau hyperphosphorylation
  • Drugs, their mechanisms of action within the context of signal transduction, and their potential side-effects
  • A special guest lecture from Professor Jack Stewart, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Scientific Officer of Soricimed Biopharma Inc., on peptides as an alternative to small-molecule (potentially toxic) drugs

Students then gave a 20-minute presentation, and are writing 3500-word papers, on the following Phase III topics (chosen by the students):

  • Acetyl-CoA carboxylase, AMPK, and fatty acid metabolism in type 2 diabetes
  • EGFR and the MAPK pathway in cancer
  • Tauopathy and GSK3 in Alzheimer’s disease
  • Caspase-9 and inhibition of apoptosis in cancer
  • Histone H3 and DNA packaging in cancer
  • Phospholipase Cγ and calcium signaling in cancer
  • Pyruvate dehydrogenase and the Warburg effect in cancer
  • STAT5 and JAK3 in severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)
  • CREB, insulin resistance, glucagon signaling, and gluconeogenesis in type 2 diabetes

10 students registered for this course and did an exemplary job all the way through! Congratulations to all students, including 2 out of 10 who are finishing up the final year and will be graduating!

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