Kristen Barthel
Postdoctoral Research Associate

Ph.D. in Biochemistry, University of Colorado Boulder, 2007

B.A. in Chemistry and French, St. Olaf College, 2001

The family of Type II sarcomeric myosin genes encodes essential motor proteins that drive contraction in striated muscle. Mutations in almost all 10 members of the gene family have been associated with human disease. In cases such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, these mutations are not associated with a particular “hot spot” but rather can be found throughout the gene, yet they may lead to the same clinical phenotype. This suggests a general disruption of the protein structure could underlie some of these pathologies, which leads us to speculate that a molecule that stabilizes the myosin fold could be clinically relevant. Studying these proteins at the molecular level is challenging as the motor domain only folds properly in a mature muscle context, precluding traditional recombinant protein production in bacteria, yeast, or even non-muscle mammalian cells. My project involves defining the minimum suite of factors necessary to fold functional sarcomeric myosin motor domains both as a fundamental biological question and as a potential line of investigation into new small molecule regulators of myosin activity.