Kholiswa Laird-Henry, Ph.D.


Chemistry 2009

Area of Doctoral Study: Chemistry
Research Advisors : Colin Garvie, Ph.D., Michael  F. Summers, Ph.D
Undergraduate Institute : University of Delaware

Current Position: Account Executive, Cintas

Description of Research

Major Histocompatability Class II (MHCII) molecules are essential for initiating and regulating the immune response in mammals. The expression of MHCII genes is stimulated by the formation of the multi-protein complex termed the MHCII enhanceosome. The complex includes the transcription factors, RFX, NFY, CREB, and the transactivator protein CIITA. The accurate assembly of the enhanceosome is heavily dependent on the RFX complex making it crucial to the successful transcription of MHCII molecules. The RFX complex is comprised of three proteins- RFX5, RFXAP, and RFXB. Mutations or deletions in any of the RFX proteins results in lack of MHCII expression and gives rise to a severe immunodeficiency disorder. The focus of my research is to elucidate an atomic level model of the essential protein-protein interactions of the RFX complex. A structural analysis of the RFX5-RFXAP binary complex is currently underway using NMR methods where the 3D structure is forthcoming. Currently, there is no structural information published on any of the RFX proteins. A complete structural understanding of the RFX complex as it pertains to the MHCII enhanceosome could provide a model for the future design of therapeutic drug targets that regulate the human immune response.