Leung, Calvin (2014 - 2017)

Calvin is in the Molecular Biology IDP. He joined the CMB training program in 2014. He received a B.S. degree in 2013 from UC Santa Cruz.

Mentor: Dr. Tracy Johnson

Research project:

Defining Molecular Functions of SLURP1 and SLURP2 in Keratinocytes.

SLURP1 and SLURP2 are a pair of lymphocyte antigen 6 (Ly6) proteins expressed in keratinocytes. SLURP1 mutations were identified in patients with mal de Meleda, a recessive skin disease characterized by thickened skin on the palms and soles. This disease is a severe form of palmoplantar keratoderma, or PPK. Mal de Meleda is associated with serious skin infections and occasionally with the loss of digits, and there is no effective treatment. Over the past decade, there has been virtually no progress in understanding the biological function of SLURP1 or how SLURP1 deficiency causes PPK. PPK can also be caused by mutations in genes encoding structural proteins of keratinocytes, such as desmosomal proteins and keratins that interact with desmosomes. In contrast, SLURP1 is a secreted protein and is readily detectable in human urine and plasma. My goals are to define the biochemical functions of SLURP1 and SLURP2, and determine how SLURP1 deficiency causes PPK. I have two hypotheses. The first is that SLURP1 binds specifically to a cell-surface protein (e.g., a desmosomal protein) and is essential for the function of that protein. The second hypothesis is that SLURP1 binds to a cell-surface receptor and triggers the expression of structural proteins of keratinocytes (e.g., desmosomal proteins, keratins).