Graduate Student Profile - John McLarney

John McLarney, MS StudentJohn McLarney Biochemistry


Faculty Advisor: Dr. Estelle Hrabak

Research Topic: Identification of Protein Acyltransferase Substrates in Arabidopsis thanliana

Protein acyltransferases (PATs) are integral membrane proteins common to all eukaryotic organisms. PATs modify target proteins by the addition of palmitate, a 16-carbon saturated fatty acid. This hydrophobic modification may alter protein function and/or localization; for example, palmitoylation can cause cytosolic proteins to become membrane associated or affect integral membrane proteins localization or function. Palmitoylation also facilitates the shuttling of proteins from one membrane system to another via vesicle transport and can influence protein half-life. The genome of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana contains 24 protein acyltransferase genes designated PAT1 through PAT24. pat14 null mutants exhibit reduced size, reduced chlorophyll levels, and premature aging (senescence). The goal of my research is to identify the protein targets of PAT14 to better understand the specific roles of PAT14 in cell physiology and senescence. The acyl-biotin exchange method is being used to isolate palmitoylated proteins from plant membranes, followed by immunodetection to confirm that known palmitoylated proteins are present in the sample. Mass spectrometry will be used to identify PAT14 substrates.

Hobbies: hiking, skiing, intramural soccer,and trivia to name a few

Why I chose UNH: I chose UNH for a handful of reasons. UNH is a top ranked and nationally recognized university in many categories, including our research programs. The research laboratories here are diverse, with many faculty conducting research in a broad range of focuses which creates a unique opportunity for cross discipline collaboration. Another selling point for me was the teaching assistant-ship that many of the programs offer, not only does it provide me with a stipend and tuition waiver but it also offers me the valuable opportunity to teach students at the college level. Finally, I love the area! Durham and the surrounding towns are the epitome of quaint coastal New England towns. Here we are in perfect reach of the White Mountains, many beaches, and the city (Portsmouth, Manchester, and Boston).