Report on summer internships at Vanderbilt 2010

/ November 3, 2010/ News

In 2010 several students from Leipzig University had the opportunity for a research stay at Vanderbilt University. Stefanie Nagel and Anette Schreiber, students of the Master’s degree program in biochemistry at Leipzig University, were two of these. Thanks to the cooperation of Leipzig University and Vanderbilt University in Nashville (Tenneessee, USA), they participated in a 10-week student exchange in summer 2010 and report here shortly their experience.

Stefanie Nagel: I performed my internship at Vanderbilt University in the workgroup of Prof. Vsevolod (Seva) Gurevich, Department of Pharmacology, a recognized expert on the field of arrestin proteins. The aim of my project was to characterize the interaction between the human neuropeptide Y 2 receptor subtype (hY2R) and non-visual arrestins (arrestin-2 and arrestin-3), using the bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) assay. Thus, I investigated the interaction of diverse hY2R mutants and arrestin-2 and -3 and compared their affinity to the hY2 wildtype receptor. After my departure from Nashville, this project was accomplished in cooperation with the workgroup of Prof. Annette Beck-Sickinger, Leipzig University, and the resulting data was recently published. I really appreciated my internship at Vanderbilt University. I have learned many new techniques concerning my work as a biochemist and the working atmosphere and mentoring were excellent. Moreover, the time at Vanderbilt immensely improved my language skills and contributed to my professional and personal development.

Anette Schreiber: I worked with the group of Prof. Jens Meiler, Center for Structural Biology, in which computer programs for the prediction of protein structures and interactions are developed. My project was to build a detailed model of the prolactin releasing peptide receptor, a rhodopsin-like G‑protein coupled receptor. Structure prediction for transmembrane proteins is particularly challenging, however, the ‘Meilerlab’ is one of the leading groups in the development of ROSETTA, an open-source software which is capable of handling membrane proteins. I could work independently on my project, but there were always helpful ROSETTA-experts around for troubleshooting. During my time in the Meilerlab, I learned a lot about protein structure prediction in general and ROSETTA in particular and eventually got a nice model of my receptor. It was an exciting time and a great experience which I can recommend to everybody!

The everyday way to the lab was short for both of us, since we just had to walk across campus from our apartment in the dorms to the institute, a chance to enjoy the summerly sun and warmth before starting (air-conditioned) work. Apart from working, there were a lot of social events in the labs which contributed to a very nice and relaxed atmosphere: Barbecue and pool parties, canoeing on Cumberland River or the trip to a rollercoaster-amusement park in the (in American terms!) close-by Atlanta. A special event was to experience the Independence Day on 4th of July which was celebrated as a joyful festival including impressive fireworks in downtown Nashville. There was also enough time for an exciting weekend trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – including grizzly watching!