Doctoral Thesis Researched Proteins in Cell Nuclei and Mitochondrial Membranes


Today, on 15 May, Kaia-Liisa Habicht from the Tallinn University School of Natural Sciences and Health will defend her doctoral thesis. The thesis studied the transmembrane proteins within cell membranes by using an alternative method – bioaffinity chromatography. Until now, this research method has only been used to study the proteins within the external cell membrane. This doctoral thesis applied the method to research the proteins within the membranes of nuclei, as well as mitochondrial membranes.

“Transmembrane proteins within cell membranes are a very important research area in pharmaceutical research, as they are linked to many diseases (e.g. tumours, neurodegenerative diseases, psychiatric disorders, etc.). We used an alternative method to study the interactions between transmembrane proteins and biomolecules – bioaffinity chromatography. This method has hitherto been used to study the proteins in the membrane surrounding the entire cell, but we expanded the use of the method to study the proteins within the membrane of the nucleus, as well as the mitochondrial membrane,” the author explained and added that this is important, as the same protein can function differently within different membrane environments.

“Bioaffinity chromatography offers important information of the molecular mechanisms, from the viewpoint of pharmaceutical development,” Habicht explained. The thesis shows that in addition to studying the proteins in lab-grown cells, this method also helps describe transmembrane proteins coming from different tissues. This gives us grounds to compare healthy and unhealthy individuals.

The research demonstrated the varied uses of the alternative method in studying transmembrane proteins. The thesis is a base research that can be used as part of the finding process of new therapeutic compounds, and sets the foundation for using this method in the future for fractionating and identifying pharmacologically significant biomolecules (e.g. from plant extracts).

The doctoral thesis “Development of Bioaffinity Chromatography Columns for Studying Transmembrane proteins of Different Biological Membranes” will be defended on 15 May at 14:00 at Tallinn University, room M-649 (Uus-Sadama 5). The thesis was supervised by Ruin Moaddel (USA/China), Ruth Shimmo (Tallinn University), and Irving W. Wainer (USA). The consultant was Nagendra S. Singh (USA). The opponents are Professor Wolfgang Thormann (Bern University) and Professor Ago Rinken (Tallinn University).

The full thesis can be accessed via the Tallinn University Academic Library E-vault ETERA.