Last year’s completion of the Human Genome Project was a major step in determining how a person’s genotype corresponds to heredity, health and disease.
With this arsenal of information, many scientists hope to develop novel strategies to prevent thousands of human disorders. A critical piece is the elucidation of protein variations within the cell to identify the cause behind abnormalities.
Through the launch of a new Proteomic Core Facility, the USC School of Pharmacy has increased access to a key scientific technique used in proteomics—a new approach that compares cellular proteins under different conditions to decipher biological processes.
Housed in the school’s Health Sciences Campus location, the Proteomic Core Facility operates as a fee-for-service laboratory for USC faculty who require protein identification in their research.
Enrique Cadenas, professor and chai of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology, supervises the facility.
The Proteomic Core Facility is a partnership between the School of Pharmacy and the Provost’s Genomic Advisory Group (PGAG).
“PGAG was established to ensure that USC scientists have state-of-the-art tools to study the human genome in relation to disease prevention and drug design,” said USC School of Pharmacy Dean Timothy Chan.
“The group is charged with encouraging the development of various core facilities to fulfill specific needs for USC’s research community,” Chan said.
PGAG is overseen by Cornelius (Neal) Sullivan, vice provost for research, who facilitated the establishment of the Proteomic Core Facility, said Chan.
Other PGAG facilities include the Institute of Genetic Medicine-based Oligonucleotide Microarray Core, led by IGM director Laurence H. Kedes, the William M. Keck Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Keck School, and the Childrens Hospital Los Angeles-based Affymetrix Core, led by Tim Triche, pathologist-in-chief at CHLA and professor of pediatrics and pathology at the Keck School.
A good way to describe the gene-protein relationship “is that genes are the blueprint, and proteins are the house after it is built,” said Tim Gallaher, director of bioinformatics for the Proteomic Core Facility.
The Proteomic Core Facility utilizes mass spectrometry to facilitate protein identification.
Gallaher explained that “the machine measures the mass of the peptides and searches a large protein database to match the peptides to their theoretical counterparts. The closer the match, the stronger the confidence that we have identified the protein.”
Investigators compare protein samples from control cells and cells that are altered by disease or drug therapy, depending on the desired outcome of the research, said Rodrigo Aguilera, director of proteomics for the Proteomic Core Facility.
“By comparing samples from different cell states, scientists can figure out what has changed and identify which protein or group of proteins is responsible,” said Aguilera. “All of this information will help scientists to ultimately develop effective drug therapies to combat disease.”
The price for mass spectrometry services is based on the number of protein samples that require analysis.
For more information, visit the facility’s Web site at www.usc.edu/schools/pharmacy/ proteomics/.