The Consequences of Spider Venom Toxins
Associate Professor of Biology Greta Binford has been awarded a $120,000 National Science Foundation grant in support of her collaborative research project, “Head Group Preference in Recluse Spider Phospholipase D Toxins.” Supported by NSF’s Chemistry of Life Processes (CLP) and Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) programs, this three-year project will allow Dr. Binford, a biologist and expert on venomous invertebrates, and Dr. Matthew Cordes, a structural biologist and biochemist at the University of Arizona, to investigate how spider venom toxins target and destroy different molecules on cell surfaces. This will involve determining the biological consequences of these toxins for predators and their prey. Understanding the specific actions of these toxins on various cell types could also be useful for detecting or manipulating different kinds of cell surfaces in biotechnology.
While the overarching goal of the project is to “understand the causes and effects of substrate head group (ethanolamine vs. choline) preference in phospholipase D toxins from recluse spiders”, it will also provide significant opportunities for undergraduates at both institutions—both in terms of research and augmenting the curriculum. More specifically, over the three year project, these NSF grants to L&C and UA will support meaningful summer research experiences for both Lewis & Clark and University of Arizona undergraduate students. Moreover, resulting structural data and experimental bioassays will be included in undergraduate courses for both non-majors and majors in Biology and Biochemistry at both L&C and UA.