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Kayunta Johnson-Winters: The F420 Cofactor and Range in STEM

Mechanistic Enzymology

An enzyme is a substance that acts as a catalyst in dwelling organisms, regulating the speed at which chemical reactions proceed with out being altered within the course of itself [3]. Enzymes primarily lie on the coronary heart of biochemistry, accelerating chemical reactions to an astounding extent with extraordinary specificity. Monumental progress in understanding the chemical foundation of enzymatic processes and the essential mechanisms behind the enhancement of response charges has taken place prior to now a long time [2]. Enzymology is the department of biochemistry aiming to grasp how enzymes work utilizing the connection between their construction and performance. So, it’s a multidisciplinary analysis discipline and integrates areas of biochemistry, microbiology, molecular biology, molecular genetics, and biophysics [1]. It’s precisely this discipline during which Dr. Kayunta Johnson-Winters, affiliate professor of chemistry and biochemistry on the College of Texas at Arlington, conducts her analysis as a mechanistic enzymologist.  

The F20 Cofactor

Coenzyme F420 - Wikipedia
Coenzyme F. (2022, April 4). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coenzyme_F420

Dr. Johnson-Winters specialises within the analysis of F420-dependent enzymes, present in mycobacterium tuberculosis, a particular class of pathogenic micro organism that causes tuberculosis [6]. F420 is a cofactor. In biochemistry, a cofactor is a non-protein chemical that assists with a organic chemical response. Cofactors could also be metallic ions, natural compounds, or different chemical compounds which have useful properties that aren’t often present in amino acids. Some cofactors will be made contained in the physique, reminiscent of ATP, whereas others have to be consumed in meals [4]. Mycobacterium tuberculosis micro organism rely closely on the F20 cofactor for his or her redox reactions. In these micro organism F420 has been proven to boost persistence and to activate some new scientific antitubercular medication (class of medicine used to deal with TB) [5]. 

Latest research have proven that the cofactor F420 is essential for resistance of mycobacteria to antimicrobial compounds. Strains of micro organism which are unable to synthesise or scale back this cofactor are often extraordinarily inclined to most antimicrobial compounds. This implies that mycobacteria make use of this cofactor of their cleansing course of. It’s also attainable that F420 enhances the capability of mycobacteria to withstand antimicrobial brokers by way of sustaining cell wall construction and producing antioxidants [7]. 

Range in STEM and the Significance of Inclusion: A Dialog with Dr. Kayunta Johnson-Winters

By virtually each measure, the U.S. STEM ecosystem is inequitable. Even whereas the share of science and engineering bachelor’s and doctorate levels awarded to Hispanic or Latino, Black and African American, and American Indian and Alaska Native graduates has elevated over the previous twenty years, they’re nonetheless underrepresented amongst science and engineering diploma recipients relative to their illustration within the total inhabitants [8]. 

Scientific progress will depend on folks studying about new issues and finding out current issues in new methods. and having racially and ethnically various folks included means bringing totally different lenses, totally different experiences, totally different questions, totally different passions – and getting higher outcomes. By being extra inclusive, the chance of scientific success is larger, selling financial progress and competitiveness.  Extra importantly, entry to STEM training is a social justice subject, and we’ve a possibility and a accountability to alleviate disparities and contribute to the acceleration of social equality.  

Nonetheless, striving for range and inclusion can also trigger hurt to these advocating for it. As one of many few workers members of color at her college, Dr. Johnson-Winters stays candid concerning the difficulties she faces as a consequence. Whereas she acknowledges the significance of illustration, she highlights how it may be robust to actually give time to her analysis – and her college students – when she’s busy together with her duties in direction of totally different committees and societies focusing on the problem of range. In our podcast, she thus iterates how she’s realized to say “no” to a few of her superiors – in a way that’s agency, but doesn’t alienate her from future alternatives. Figuring out that this isn’t only a university-specific downside, Dr. Johnson-Winters advocates for a paradigm shift in foundational insurance policies – particularly those who have been created to subserve and profit solely a selected class of individuals. 

Be taught Extra

Should you’d like to listen to extra concerning the fascinating science of enzymology and the significance of range in chemistry, go to us on Spotify to hearken to our ChemTalk podcast with Dr. Kayunta Johnson-Winters, affiliate professor of chemistry and biochemistry on the College of Texas, Arlington, to study extra about how she stumbled onto the F420 cofactor, why she selected academia over business, and to study concerning the ‘chemistry of life’. 

Discover the ChemTalk podcast right here.

Works Cited 

[1] S. Mitic, S. de Vries, in Complete Biophysics, 2012. 

[2] Herschlag, D., & Natarajan, A. (2013). Basic challenges in mechanistic enzymology: progress towards understanding the speed enhancements of enzymes. Biochemistry, 52(12), 2050–2067. https://doi.org/10.1021/bi4000113

[3] Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2022, August 19). enzyme. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/enzyme

[4] BD Editors. “Cofactors”. Biology Dictionary. April 18, 2017.

[5] Bashiri, G., Antoney, J., Jirgis, E.N.M. et al. A revised biosynthetic pathway for the cofactor F420 in prokaryotes. Nat Commun 10, 1558 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09534-x

[6] Johnson-Winters, Kayunta. Private Interview. Carried out by Olivia Lambertson. 22 November 2022. 

[7] Jirapanjawat, T., Ney, B., Taylor, M. C., Warden, A. C., Afroze, S., Russell, R. J., Lee, B. M., Jackson, C. J., Oakeshott, J. G., Pandey, G., & Greening, C. (2016). The Redox Cofactor F420 Protects Mycobacteria from Various Antimicrobial Compounds and Mediates a Reductive Cleansing System. Utilized and environmental microbiology, 82(23), 6810–6818. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.02500-16

[8] Xiao-Wei Wang, Natalie Lake. “Why Range in STEM Issues”. Packard Basis. November 23, 2021. 

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