Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Jianxiang Zhang L&S Sciences

Identifying Essential Periaxin Domains for Proper Lens Function


Cataract, a clouding of the eye lens, is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Periaxin (Prx) is a scaffold protein interacting with membrane/cytoskeletal networks in the lens and other cell types and has been implicated in cataract development. My project will investigate the functions of Prx variants in lens cells. Recent studies in the Gong Lab suggest that Prx is a genetic modifier regulating cataract severity in connexin 46 knockout (Cx46KO) mice. Four Prx missense variants have been identified between the 129SvJae (129) and the C57BL/6J (B6) mouse strains. Based on Prxs structural importance, I hypothesize that Prx variants interact differently with lens cytoskeletal proteins and subsequently affect their cellular distribution and lens cell structure integrity. I will determine how different Prx gene variants alter the distribution and function of cytoskeletal proteins in cultured lens cells, which will reveal new molecular information about how substituted amino acid residues in specific domains affect Prxs interaction with lens protein.

Message To Sponsor

I want to thank the donor for providing me with the opportunity to carry out an independent research project during the summer. This project will allow me to dive into the molecular mechanisms behind cataract formation. I am excited to learn how to appropriately design and perform experiments, interpret experimental data in the context of my hypothesis, and ultimately learn how to think like a researcher.
Major: Chemical Biology & Applied Mathematics
Mentor: Xiaohua Gong
Sponsor: Pergo Fund
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