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NO.406 06.19.2018

Kyung Hee Graduate Student in Convergence Medicine Has Made a World’s First Discovery on ‘Missing Protein’

A paper written during undergraduate studies is featured as the cover article in an internationally renowned journal

The author is Student Seung-eun Lee (first year, graduate program) of the Department of Convergence Medical Science at the Graduate School of Kyung Hee University. In February, shortly before obtaining her undergraduate diploma in Applied Chemistry, Lee published an article entitled, “Proteogenomic Analysis to Identify Missing Protein from Haploid Cell Lines’ to examine a protein that is known to express but has yet to find any evidence of it.

It was not until April that the news reached Seung-eun: her essay was selected as the cover article for the 2018 No. 8 issue of Proteomics, a world-renowned scholarly journal, to be released on April 18, 2018.


Excellent outcome obtained by studying both genomics and proteins

Student Lee’s research falls into the domain of C-HPP (Chromosome-centric Human Proteome Project), which is a project started by the Human Proteome Organization (HUPO) in September 2011. The international project studies the relationship between the genetic map of the human genome and proteins.


The goal of C-HPP is to identify the function of every protein expressed in the human chromosomes. Currently, there are a total of 2,536 (as of June, 2017) missing proteins, meaning that their protein expression is known to exist in the human genomic data but the evidence of such genomes has not been found in actual human cells or body fluids. Missing proteins are peculiar in that they are small in volume and express only in unique cell strains.


In an undergrad “Independent Study” semester in 2017, Student Lee came across an article that reported the unusual expression of missing proteins in the human sperm and the ovum. Recognizing that the sperm and the ovum are haploids (a cell having a single chromosome), Lee felt that the missing protein could be found by analyzing the protein cell strain of the haploid.


Hence, in her search for the missing protein, she analyzed the HAP1 haploid and the KBM-7 cell line. After extracting the transcriptome (RNA) and the protein individually and separately, they underwent both quantitative and qualitative analyses.

 


According to the central dogma of molecular biology, the genetic data inherent in DNA transforms into protein through RNA translation. Through genetic protein research, Student Lee analyzed the pool of RNA that contained missing protein data, and confirmed that unusual missing proteins do indeed express in haploid cell strains. Based on this finding, Lee was the first in the world to identify nine missing proteins.


With this new human protein discovery, “I feel compelled to challenge myself to identify the cause of cancer”
The research went a step further. In the process of the genome analysis, by reanalyzing outcomes that did not neatly classify themselves into known proteins, she found that proteins expressed in ncRNA (non-coding RNA) where traditionally it had been believed that no protein expression occurred. Student Lee gave the name ‘mystic proteins’ to the six newly confirmed protein expressions.


Professor Min-Sik Kim of the College of Applied Sciences evaluated this study as “a new discovery in human protein studies,” and offered that “by studying in combination both genomics and proteins, the study produced results far more superior than when each was examined independently.”

Using the recent achievement as a launching pad, Student Lee is ready for her next challenge―to identify the cause of cancer. She expressed her wish to “apply the gene protein analysis method used for this study to the cancer gene protein project that is currently underway.” Her goal is “to find the biomarkers (substances that can detect changes in the human body) that can help to identify the pathogenesis of cancer.” Student Lee emphasized that her study will serve as the center piece of gene protein research.

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