The National Science Foundation has awarded a three-year,
$300,000 grant to a UT Arlington biochemist working to unravel the mystery of
how enzymes regulate the human body.
Brad Pierce, an assistant professor in the Department of
Chemistry and Biochemistry, is studying a new class of enzymes that are
catalysts for the oxidation, or breaking down, of sulfur-bearing molecules in
involved in sulfur-oxidation are increasingly being recognized as potential
drug targets for development of antimicrobials and therapies for cancer and
inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. "Ironically,
while sulfur is considered one of the six primordial elements necessary for
life to exist, enzymes involved in sulfur metabolism remain poorly
understood." said Pierce.
Imbalance in the metabolites of sulfur-bearing molecules can
be used as biomarkers for patients suffering from neurological disorders such
as autism, Alzheimer’s disease and Down syndrome. Therefore, a greater
understanding of how sulfur-oxidizing enzymes function may advance research
into those conditions.
“The first crystal structure for an enzyme of this class was
published six years ago and since then, a number of groups have been attempting
to figure out how it works,” said Pierce, who joined the UT Arlington College of
Science in 2008. “There is so much we don’t know about how these
enzymes function and are regulated so efficiently in the body. That’s a lot of
what biochemistry is – trying to understand how enzymes work at a molecular
level, and then using that knowledge to develop strategies to benefit human
Pierce specializes in the use of both electron paramagnetic
resonance (EPR) and optical spectroscopy to probe the active sites of metalloenzymes.
His work gives both undergraduate and graduate students at UT Arlington an
opportunity to use the latest technology and work at the forefront of basic
research relevant to understanding enzyme mechanisms.
The National Science Foundation grant will also support Pierce’s ongoing
efforts to expand scientific research opportunities for local high school
students in North Texas. This summer, two high school students from North Texas were selected for summer research internships in his lab.
“Dr. Pierce is
has established a very productive research laboratory at UT Arlington,” said
Rasika Dias, chairman of the UT Arlington Department of Chemistry and
Biochemistry. “I am very pleased to see that NSF recognized the importance
of his work through a generous grant.”
Pierce’s work is an example of innovation under way at UT
Arlington, a comprehensive research institution of nearly 33,500
students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.