Allen T. Phillips

Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry

Dept. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 
208 South Frear Laboratory 
University Park, PA 16802 
Telephone: 814-865-1247 

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 As an emeritus faculty member since 2001, I only infrequently teach BMB lecture classes.  In Spring semesters 2009 through 2011, I offered a 1-credit course on "Practical Aspects of Enzymology" (BMB 497A) and will do this again in Spring 2013, but for 2 credits, as the result of an initiative by the Provost’s Office to get emeritus faculty involved in teaching.  This is a course based on my belief that most BMB students (and those in closely related areas) need additional training in enzymology, particularly covering assay development, purification, property characterization, and how routine kinetic treatment is applied to multisubstrate reactions.  Also covered are some aspects of how enzymes are being employed in industry and for modern medical applications.  Previous years’ classes were taken by undergrad and new graduate students in BMB, Chemistry, Ag. Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Biology, and Food Science, hopefully illustrating that students from many areas feel the need for more exposure to enzymes and their properties, especially when approached from a practical standpoint.  In teaching this class, I have occasionally had the invaluable assistance of Dr. Lorraine Mulfinger, Res. Assoc. Prof. in HHD, primarily for her association with the Program in Diabetes and Obesity at the Hershey and UP campuses; Dr. Mulfinger brought to the class special expertise in clinical applications that has been of great benefit.  When she has not been available to help, I attempt to get one or two persons from outside the University to provide some practical experience enlightenment for my class’s students.
     I continue to be very involved in research on histidine metabolism and several other projects involving microbial physiology and biochemistry.   BMB or Microbiology majors who wish to get some hands-on research experience as part of their undergraduate training are encouraged to contact the BMB Department office which coordinates student research interests with faculty research topics.   For more information on what my research involves and whether there are currently any openings for undergrad researchers in my laboratory, please contact me directly.   Below are a few details that might be of value to those exploring research opportunities under my direction.  In most years we usually have had one or two students from the WISER/MURE Program (NASA-sponsored) conducting research, and I have supervised Honors thesis research for several Scholars Program students as well as persons simply looking for research experience.  While I do not have assigned advising duties for  BMB undergraduates; if I can be of assistance to anyone needing academic or professional advice, I would be pleased to help out.

Research focus:   Enzymology and molecular genetics, particularly concerning histidine metabolism
Usual qualifications needed:   Some knowledge of organic chemistry, biochemistry, and general microbiology

Mutational techniques are valuable tools in the analysis of metabolic pathways and their regulation, as well as for creating altered forms of enzymes and for obtaining modified genetic material to permit cloning for high level gene expression.  Students working in this lab may be involved in construction and selection of mutants blocked in specific steps of histidine degradation.  Characterization of the mutants at the molecular level may involve enzyme activity analysis, molecular biology techniques such as subcloning into a plasmid vector, electrophoresis of restriction enzyme digestion products, and isolation of fragments for DNA sequence analysis.  Also, site-directed mutations derived from PCR work may be created to produce other desired mutational changes.  These studies may be coupled with efforts to characterize one or more of the enzymes involved in the histidine utilization pathway.  Currently students are working on urocanase, a mechanistically unique NAD-dependent hydro-lyase, on the catalytic properties of formyl-glutamate amidohydrolase, and on the hut repressor protein which is a DNA-binding protein with unusual sequence recognition properties.    In addition, isolation of pathway intermediates, produced either by chemical synthesis or from blocked mutants, can provide practical experience in the chemical and biochemical properties of histidine metabolites.  In this area, efforts are currently focused on the toxic nature of the intermediate imidazolone propionate (or one of its breakdown products) and by what mechanism does this material produce its toxicity on cell growth when it is unable to be metabolized due to absence of the imidazolone propionate hydrolase.

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Last modified: Thursday, 13 December-12 13:18:16 EST