LaBaer Lab: Research

The study of functional proteomics requires a multidisciplinary approach – merging biology, biochemistry, cell biology, engineering, molecular biology, bioinformatics, software development, and database management – to aid in the evaluation of the entire collection of human proteins (proteome) and their specific role(s) in health and disease.

The foundation of our proteomics research is a novel protein microarray technology, called Nucleic Acid-Programmable Protein Array (NAPPA), which replaces the complex process of spotting purified proteins with the simple process of spotting plasmid DNA. This core technology is a key innovation in the quest for identifying and characterizing proteins that regulate crucial events in the progression of diseases such as type I diabetes, breast and lung cancer, or infectious pathogens that are currently the focus of our research.
Our technology exploits the ability to transfer protein encoding regions of the human genome (ORFs) into specialized tagged expression vectors. These new expression clones are then spotted on the array, and the proteins are then produced in situ in a cell-free system and immobilized in place upon their synthesis. This minimizes direct manipulation of the proteins and produces them just-in-time for the experiment, avoiding problems with protein purification and stability (Science. 2004 305:86). A next generation method for these arrays has been developed that allows thousands of proteins to be produced simultaneously in situ, and with remarkably consistent protein levels displayed (Nat Methods. 2008 5:535).

In concert with NAPPA technology, we have assembled a key scientific resource: the DNASU repository, a massive library of more than 270,000 expression-ready plasmid clones for genes found in human and other commonly studied organisms. This repository is maintained in a robotically controlled, rapid-access storage facility, with clone variants openly available to laboratories all over the world.