Harvard University - Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology


April 7th, 2004

"I am thrilled that I will be supported by the Wyman Fellowship to do my work," says Dr. Jin (l .), in the lab with Dr. Rachelle Gaudet (r. ), Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, who nominated her for the award.
Xiangshu Jin, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Rachelle Gaudet, Assistant professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, is the first recipient of the Jeffries Wyman Fellowship awarded in MCB.   The fellowship, endowed by Jeffries Wyman III in honor of his father, supports the work of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows working in molecular biology, particularly in biophysical chemistry and structure and function of biological macromolecules.

In describing her work on TRP channels, Xiangshu explains, "transient receptor potential (TRP) channels are a variety of calcium-permeable channels that allow calcium entry into cells in response to a variety of signals, such as temperature, touch, pain, osmolarity, taste, and other stimuli.   The goal of my postdoctoral research is to study the three-dimensional structures and functions of the vanilloid receptor subfamily of TRP channels, which will yield information about the diverse mechanisms of TRP channel activation in biological systems."

Dr. Jin completed her undergraduate work at Beijing University and pursued her doctoral studies in structural biology in the laboratory of Dr. James Geiger at Michigan State University.   "As the first step," Dr. Jin comments in describing her work in the Gaudet lab, "I would like to determine the structures of isolated domains and the complete channel of TRPV1 in its closed, opened, and other regulated states using X-ray crystallography."

TRPV1 is an ion channel that senses hot temperatures, acidity, and the "hot" pepper-derived vanilloid compound capsaicin.   "This ion channel plays important physiological roles in burning sensation, asthma, and overactive bladder," explains Jin, "and the structural data will provide us a framework to understand the mechanics of TRPV1 channel, based on which effective chemical inhibitors will be designed and used therapeutically."

Dr. Jin in her laboratory
"As the research develops, I would also like to expand my work on other related TRP channels.   This research enables me to be exposed to a variety of interesting biological research problems, and an excellent opportunity to learn and improve experimental techniques as well as my skills as a research investigator," she concludes.

The endowed fund honors Jeffries Wyman AB '23 (1901-1995), a member of the Harvard Biology Department from 1928 to 1951, who may be best known for his work on the dielectric properties of amino acids, proteins and related compounds, and on the physical chemistry of hemoglobin. He served as the first scientific advisor to the US Embassy in Paris 1951-54; directed a regional science office in the Middle East for UNESCO 1955-58; and returned to scientific research as a guest scientist at the University of Rome's Biochemical Institute and Instituto Regina Elena, where he focused on the structure and function of hemoglobin.   He cowrote the textbook, Biophysical Chemistry , with his lifelong friend and colleague, Dr. John Edsall.   He died at his home in Paris in 1995.

Photos by Julia Blackbourn