Vol 10. Issue 24 / August 16, 2010

Distinguished University of Michigan Chemist Joins Department of Chemistry

The Scripps Research Institute has appointed distinguished chemist Kate Carroll, formerly at the University of Michigan, as associate professor.

Carroll, who is 36, joined the Scripps Florida faculty in July.

"We are extremely pleased to have Kate join our department," said K.C. Nicolaou, chair of the Scripps Research Department of Chemistry. "One of the major challenges in modern biochemistry is creating tools to detect the different post-translational modifications that occur on proteins, and she has been a pioneer in this area. Her research will contribute to the Scripps Research tradition of applying advanced chemical techniques to critical problems in biology and medicine."

"I'm excited to join the Scripps Research faculty in Florida," said Carroll, who lives in Jupiter. "Scripps is at the forefront of Chemical Biology and provides a dynamic collaborative environment. In addition, South Florida is an area of incredible natural beauty."

Carroll's research bridges the fields of chemistry and biology, focusing on what is known as reduction-oxidation reaction or redox – a chemical reaction in the body that results in damage to healthy cells and contributes to diseases ranging from Alzheimer's and heart disease. Much of her work is concentrated on defining the importance of these oxidative changes on major signaling pathways inside the cell, and how that knowledge can be used to identify novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of human disease.

Another aspect of her work is the continued development and improvement of various technologies she has developed, many of which are already in use in labs around the world.

A Life of Science

Carroll received her bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Mills College and her Ph.D. from Stanford University, where she was an American Heart Association fellow. In 2003, supported by the prestigious Damon Runyon postdoctoral fellowship in the Chemistry Department at the University of California, Berkeley, she focused her postdoctoral research on areas of chemical synthesis and mass spectrometry as they applied to biological systems.

In 2006, she was appointed an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Michigan. While there, she worked to develop new chemical tools to identify and study oxidative post-translational modifications associated with age and neurodegenerative diseases. She was honored with a Special Fellow Award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Association to help support this project.

In 2008, she received an American Heart Association Scientist Development award and, in 2010, a Dreyfus Teacher Scholar award.

As one example of her recent work, in a 2009 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Carroll showed that hydrogen peroxide functions as a second messenger that can activate cell proliferation through oxidation of cysteine residues in signaling proteins; cysteine is an amino acid that can be synthesized in the body.

Because oxidation plays such a villainous role in the growth of cancer cells – damaging everything from nucleic acids to proteins – it's clear that treating cancer with the inhibiting power of anti-oxidants could also slow that growth. Creating an oxidative stress marker that could pick out the precise pathway of tumor cell growth would greatly improve the odds of treatment success.

In the study, Carroll found that marker and developed a novel way to read it. The marker turned out to be sulfenic acid, an early warning product of the reaction between hydrogen peroxide and cysteine. Carroll tagged the miniscule reaction target so that it could be recognized by a fluorescent dyed antibody. With the new marker, Carroll was able to read the levels of sulfenic acid levels in various cell lines, including in breast cancer cells.





Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu



"Scripps is at the forefront of Chemical Biology and provides a dynamic collaborative environment," says Associate Professor Kate Carroll, who joined the Scripps Research faculty in July. (Photo by James McEntee.)