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Hendrix Biology Research Team Publishes Potential Insight Related to Developmental Disorder

NSF-funded research gives students opportunities to learn while advancing scientific knowledge

Elijah Dilday (left) and Avery Olmstead presenting a poster on the research recently published in Epigenetics.  / courtesy photo

CONWAY, Arkansas (September 16, 2022)—A research team of Hendrix students, staff, and recent graduates, with the guidance of Hendrix Professor of Biology Dr. Andrea Duina, has co-authored a paper published in Epigenetics, a research journal focused on gene expression. The team included:

  • Alex Pablo-Kaiser ’21 – Former Duina lab technician
  • McKenzie G. Tucker ’22
  • Grace A. Turner ’22
  • Elijah G. Dilday ’23
  • Avery G. Olmstead ’23
  • Caroline L. Tackett ’22 – Current Duina lab technician
  • Andrea A. Duina – Professor of biology; faculty member at Hendrix College since 2004

Participants in the Duina lab’s projects use budding yeast cells (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) to study and understand some of the fundamental ways that cells use genes, and their paper, “Dominant effects of the histone mutant H3-L61R on Spt16-gene interactions in budding yeast,” provides a possible insight into the molecular mechanism responsible for a neurodevelopmental disorder recently identified in two human patients. 

In brief, the paper shows that when a component of yeast chromosomes is mutated in a specific way it can interfere with the function of a critical protein known as Spt16 – since the human patients carry an equivalent mutation in their chromosomes, it is possible that the mutation likewise impairs the function of the human versions of Spt16, which could in turn contribute to the presentation of the disease.

The research project was made possible by a National Science Foundation research grant awarded to Duina in 2020. This is the fifth such grant Duina has received to facilitate undergraduate research opportunities at Hendrix. 

“I am very proud of the four students and two laboratory technicians — both recent Hendrix grads — whose hard work and dedication to the project made this publication possible,” Duina said. “These types of research experiences are not only critical for the advancement of scientific knowledge, but also provide students with the type of hands-on experiential learning that gives them an extra edge as they continue on with their careers, be it graduate school, medical school, or other related endeavors.”

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit