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UTA assistant professor named ASMS “emerging investigator” for developing new ways to analyze protein modifications linked to cancer, aging

Thursday, April 20, 2017 • Media Contact: Louisa Kellie

Saiful Chowdhury, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The University of Texas at Arlington

The American Society of Mass Spectrometry has named Saiful Chowdhury, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The University of Texas at Arlington, as one of the leading emerging investigators worldwide for his work developing new techniques using mass spectrometry to differentiate protein modifications linked to cancer and aging.

Each of the 14 early researchers chosen are “already making important contributions in their respective fields of research and are influencing future directions in our field,” according to the editorial published in the April 2017 Journal of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry, which includes the 2017 ASMS “Emerging Investigators” Focus.

UTA’s Saiful Chowdhury has developed new strategies using mass spectrometry to identify prenylated proteins, or proteins modified by lipids, which are a biomarker of leukemia, pancreatic and colon cancers; genetic- and aging-related illnesses; and parasitic, bacterial and viral infections. Mass spectrometry identifies proteins or peptide, which are small pieces of protein, sequences by fragmenting them into smaller pieces and analyzing the masses.

“Identifying the modified proteins in a large sample with many unmodified proteins can be very difficult,” Chowdhury said. “Our new technique, which we call mass spectrometry cleavable strategy, is an easy and inexpensive way to differentiate modified proteins by breaking the lipid bond selectively and using mass spectrometry to identify changes in mass.” 

The April 2017 focus edition of the Journal of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry 

The April 2017 focus edition of the Journal of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry also included a new article by Chowdhury in which he extends the application of his method using two major fragmentation techniques in tandem in gas phase to identify modified proteins.

The paper, titled “Gas-phase fragmentation behavior of oxidized prenyl peptides by CID and ETD Tandem Mass Spectrometry,” explains how the Chowdhury lab is the first to use collision-based dissociation or CID and electron-transfer dissociation or ETD methods in tandem to identify oxidized lipid modified peptides by mass spectrometry.

“Gas-phase cleavable strategies are becoming my hallmark in this field,” Chowdhury said. "They produce fragment markers in the mass spectra so protein interactions and modifications can be pinpointed with high accuracy.”

“Going forward, we plan to identify comprehensively the list of enzymes causing the lipid modifications so new inhibitors can be developed to target proteins within cancer treatments,” he added.

Frederick MacDonnell, chair of UTA’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, underlined the importance of this research within the University’s strategic focus on Health and the Human Condition within the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions|Global Impact.

“This study opens new avenues for a more efficient analysis of these modified proteins using mass spectrometry and will significantly improve our knowledge of the mechanism of cancer, cancer treatments and diagnosis, as well as other diseases,” MacDonnell said.

“I would also like to congratulate Dr. Chowdhury on being recognized by the ASMS on an international level as a leading emerging investigator researcher in his field,” he added.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 “highest research activity” institution. With a projected global enrollment of close to 57,000, UTA is one of the largest institutions in the state of Texas. Guided by its Strategic Plan 2020 Bold Solutions|Global Impact, UTA fosters interdisciplinary research and education within four broad themes: health and the human condition, sustainable urban communities, global environmental impact, and data-driven discovery. UTA was recently cited by U.S. News & World Report as having the second lowest average student debt among U.S. universities. U.S. News & World Report lists UTA as having the fifth highest undergraduate diversity index among national universities. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2017 Best for Vets list.