Usha P. Andley

Washington University, USA

Usha P. Andley is a biochemist with an interest in ophthalmology. She is an Associate Professor at the Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the Washington University in St. Louis, Mo, USA. She received her B.S. degree in chemistry (1970) and M.S. degree in chemistry (1972) from the Delhi University, Delhi, India. She got the Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India (1977). Her major area of research is biochemical studies of cataract; a blinding eye disease that affects millions worldwide. Several approaches are being used at understanding the function of A-crystallin; a major protein of the lens and a member of the small heat shock protein family of molecular chaperones. This protein, composed of two gene products aA and aB, plays important roles in the lens and other tissues. Mutations in aA- and aB-crystallins form the basis of several hereditary cataracts. The laboratory is using gene transfer and knockout models to understand the function of a-crystallin in the lens epithelium. Previously, it was thought that aA acted simply as a sink for unfolding proteins in lens fiber cells. However, recent work showed that lens epithelial cultures of aA knockout mice have vastly slower growth and an altered cell cycle distribution, and these findings may explain why the aA null lenses are smaller than controls. It was also found that lens epithelial cells derived from aB null mice transform at a higher rate and demonstrate very much increased proliferation and genomic instability. These studies use confocal microscopy, flow cytometric, and biochemical techniques to study the role of a-crystallin in the cell cycle. Genes encoding GFP-tagged a-crystallin are being introduced into lens epithelial cells. Time-lapse video microscopy can then be used to visualize the protein in living cells. Other studies focus on the role of aA in the cross talk between cell proliferation and apoptosis in the lens epithelium. In a related project, her laboratory is examining the protective phenotype conferred by the expression of this protein in lens epithelial cells and the effect of specific mutations associated with hereditary cataract on the protective function of a-crystallin. Ongoing studies on the mechanisms of cataract formation are also being pursued through gene chip microarray studies.

Biography Updated on 26 February 2009

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