Welcome To The Vigoreaux Laboratory:

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Dr. Jim Vigoreaux
Laboratory Head

Research

The Vigoreaux lab is interested in the structural and functional properties of muscles that power oscillatory systems, namely the insect flight muscle and the vertebrate cardiac muscle. We use classical and molecular genetic approaches to study the function of various contractile proteins of the indirect flight muscles (IFM) of Drosophila melanogaster. Our goal is to understand how individual proteins contribute to the structural stability and mechanical properties of the muscle fiber, and to the function of the flight system. This research combines biochemical techniques to analyze protein function, cell imaging techniques to analyze muscle ultrastructure, bioengineering techniques to analyze muscle mechanical properties, and entire flight system measurements. The second area of interest is thin filament regulation of cardiac muscle contraction. A major goal of this research is to understand how changes in phosphorylation of troponin I affect the contractile properties of the heart.

 

Pedro Alvarez-Ortiz
Graduate Research Assistant

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Flightin is a 20kDa protein that is only expressed in the indirect flight muscle (IFM) of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. This gene is essential for the flight behavior in the fruit fly and its known that maintain the integrity of the sarcomere in the IFM. In the past it was tough that flightin was an orphan gene but recent examination of the different genomes available has revealed that different organisms has flightin like sequences. These flightin like sequences share a common region of about 55 amino acids named WYR (because 9 amino acids are conserved tryptophan, tyrosine and arginine). We hypothesize that this region is the region responsible to bind myosin. One aspect of my research is delimiting the region in flightin that is responsible to bind myosin. Also, from the examination of these flightin like sequence we found two striking results. The first is that some sequences come from insects that are very primitive which lack wings and in other cases the insect have only synchronous muscle. The second, and for our surprise is that some of the sequences comes from crustacean. These results suggest that flightin maybe has other function than the one already reported in the IFM of Drosophila. The other aspect of my research deals with the examination of the expression of flightin in different tissues from organisms that represent the crustaceans and the hexapods.

 

Lynda Menard
Graduate Teaching Assistant

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I graduated from WPI in Feb 2008 with a B.S. in biology before moving on to Mass Biologics where I participated in the development of mutant SOD1 Abs. After that I proceeded to Alnylam where my research focused on the utilization of siRNA to enhance the production of desired cell products. I am currently examining the possible functional homology between vertebrate cardiac Myosin Binding Protein-C (cMyBP-C) and invertebrate flightin (FLN) and have utilized atomic force microscopy (AFM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to evaluate thick filament persistence length and sarcomere structure in the indirect flight muscle (IFM) transgenic D. melanogaster models expressing cMyBP-C with and without FLN. I am also examining localization and characterizing binding kinetics of these proteins in the IFM. Other interests include biomimetics and biomaterials, specifically employing alpha-helical coiled-coils such as that found in the light meromyosin (LMM) region of myosin II thick filaments.

 

Lori Nyland
Research Technician

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In the Vigoreaux lab I have worked on determining thick filament stiffness using atomic force microscopy and currently I am working on determining the 3D high resolution structure of the native relaxed thick filament.

 

Ricardo Burgos-Muniz
Research Technician

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I graduated from the Mayaguez campus of University of Puerto Rico with a degree in microbiology and a M.S. in Molecular Biology. My research interest includes understanding the molecular mechanisms of disease with the help of interdisciplinary tools. I found myself with the opportunity to work with Dr. Vigoreaux utilizing molecular genetic approaches to understand the flight system in Drosophila

 

Andrew Mead
Post Doc Fellow

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"I joined the Vigoreaux lab in the spring after completing my PhD in biology at the University of Pennsylvania, where I worked on gene-based therapies to treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.   I am interested in how the balance of energy availability and energy consumption in muscle cells effects body-wide physiological processes relevant to healthspan and lifespan.  Ease of genetic manipulation and well-characterized flight muscles make Drosophila melanogaster a powerful model for studying metabolic homeostasis in muscle.   I am currently developing methods to test the effects of flight exercise on whole organism physiology." 

 

James Contompasis
Undergraduate Student

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I am currently an undergraduate student in the Honor’s College from Burlington, Vermont pursuing a B.A. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry.  I intend to write an Honors thesis in my senior year based on the research that I do in this lab.  I am studying the possibility of functional homology between the myosin rod binding proteins flightin and cardiac Myosin Binding Protein C (cMyBP-C).  I am currently doing this by protein quantification of our transgenic lines of Drosophila melanogaster.  I am also currently involved in a project aimed at studying C-terminal and N-terminal deletions of flightin. 

 

Matt Rosenthal
Undergraduate Student

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I am currently engaged in a B.A. Biology Major with Chemistry and Pharmacology as minors. My current lab project is coming to understand how the structural protein Flightin, found exclusively in Drosophila melanogaster’s asynchronous Indirect Flight Muscles (IFM) that provide flight and courtship song, can be both naturally and sexually selected for. Flightin is a 20 kD protein binding in the myosin rod region that is required for maintaining the length of the thick filament during structural development and further more the structural integrity of the IFM. With sequence comparison between 12 species of Drosophila, the protein can be broken down into three different conserved sections providing leading questions of “What is causing the differences in sequence conservation and what evolutionary selection processes are acting on Flightin?” Various truncations to the Flightin protein have been expressed in fly models and tested by several flight and courtship assays as well by protein expression analysis.

 

Campbell Dickson
Undergraduate Student

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I am a UVM student currently entering my third year of study.  I am on track to receive a B.S. in Integrated Biological Sciences, a B.A. in Mathematics, and a minor in Chemistry.  My studies focus primarily on methods of mathematically modeling complex biological and chemical systems.  I work closely with a number of researchers in Dr. Vigoreaux’s lab to understand the thick filament-associated protein flightin.  My part in the research involves dissection of flies and isolation/purification of flightin, 1D SDS-PAGE of thick filament proteins and myosin rod binding proteins to determine binding stoichiometry, and affinity chromatography co-sedimentation assays to determine which amino acid residues of the myosin rod’s light meromyosin (LMM) region are involved with binding flightin and its functional homologue, cardiac Myosin Binding Protein C (cMyBP-C).

 

Whitney Stevens Sostre
Summer Intern

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I am from Ponce, Puerto Rico and am an undergraduate student from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. I was an undergraduate research intern in Dr. Vigoreaux's lab during the summer of 2013. My research interest is primarily Neuroscience and understanding the Drosophila melanogaster model system. My summer research project consisted of optimizing an immunostaining protocol to be performed on dissected indirect flight muscles (IFM) in adult D. melanogaster flies.

 

Ricardo Santana Santini
Summer Intern

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I am from San Juan, Puerto Rico and was a summer intern in Dr. Jim Vigoreaux's lab at UVM. My interests in research are: biomedical and chemical projects, and I'm interested in information about organisms and diseases.