Iva, pursuing her PhD studies in the lab of MFPL researcher Thomas Leonard, is in the process of putting the finishing touches to her thesis entitled “Role of lipid second messengers in the activation of Protein kinase B (PKB/Akt) and Protein kinase C (PKC)”. She is planning to complete her thesis by March of this year.
Her research focuses on Protein Kinase B (PKB, also known as Akt) and Protein Kinase C (PKC), both of which play central roles in many cellular processes, including cell growth, survival, proliferation, and metabolism. Iva explains further: “The two most studied effectors of lipid second messengers are PKB (Akt) and PKC. Akt responds to the lipid second messenger phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-triphosphate (PIP3) and is hyperactivated in as many as 50% of human cancers. PKC responds to diacylglycerol (DAG) and has recently been described as a tumor suppressor. We were able to show, for the first time, that PIP3 allosterically activates Akt, and that it does do by promoting high-affinity substrate binding. Furthermore, we uncovered the mechanism by which a known cancer causing mutation in Akt drives cell transformation.
In the case of PKC, we have demonstrated the overall conservation of a 3D architecture between different subfamilies of PKCs, despite the differences in the domain arrangement in their primary protein sequence. We have also identified a novel interface between one of the DAG binding C1 domains and the kinase domain, which is involved in the maintenance of autoinhibited, inactive PKC. Binding of PKC to membranes containing DAG relieves this inhibitory interaction, thereby activating the kinase.” The Dissertation Completion Fellowship is awarded to PhD students across all disciplines with an exceptional study record, successful publications and conference presentations. The awardees are then selected by a panel of experts appointed by the Rectorate of the University of Vienna. This year, out of 31 applications, Iva was awarded one of 12 fellowships.
“I am very thankful to be a recipient of the Dissertation Completion Fellowship, as now I have financial support for the additional time needed to write up my PhD thesis, after having finished the last experiments for my publication”, Iva says.
The next fellowship call is set to open in April 2017, for more information and updates please refer to the fellowship website. Further grants and funding opportunities for researchers of all stages can be found here.