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UW Molecular Biology Researcher's Paper Published in Prestigious Journal

December 15, 2009
Natasha Kirienko

A scientist in the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Wyoming will have a paper published in the prestigious European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) journal.

Post-doctorate associate researcher Natasha Kirienko is the lead author on the article to be published in early 2010. Kirienko, who received her Ph.D. in. molecular biology last May from UW, works in the laboratory of Associate Professor David Fay, the article's co-author, in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Titled "SLR-2 and JMJC-1 regulate an evolutionarily conserved stress-response network," the article details the discovery that a certain gene in C. elegans, a nematode, is a component in the network of all organisms' response to stress.

"We're very pleased," said Fay about Kirienko's publication. "EMBO is one of the best journals in our field, and it's a tough one to get into."

The journal rejects 90 percent of submissions. Fay credits Kirienko with essentially all the work on the research.

"Natasha is the best student that I know of to come out of this department at the Ph.D. level," said Fay.

A native of Russia, Kirienko began work in his lab in 2004. "She came directly from Russia. She worked very hard to get here and hit the ground running."

Kirienko had already published an article about the gene in C. elegans she had been studying in relation to the maintenance of intestinal functions. "She figured out that, in addition to its role in the gut, it was also doing something completely separate in the response to stress," added Fay.

All organisms have to respond to a variety of environmental stresses, said Fay. Kirienko discovered the gene altered the organism's ability to react and cope well -- it is a vital component of the stress response network. Further, Kirienko discovered that this molecular network operaties in organisms ranging from worms to humans.

"She initially figured out quite a bit using computational methods, but, very importantly, was able to support all these predictions using experimental methods," said Fay.

Kirienko has accepted a position as a post-doctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School and will leave UW this winter.

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