Department of Biological Chemistry

 

Zvi Livneh, Head
The Maxwell Ellis Chair of Biomedical Research

The Department of Biological Chemistry is home to more than 24 research groups, whose scientific activities span several areas in the Life Sciences. The common thread is the study of the biochemistry of life. Emphasis is on the investigation of proteins, whether soluble or membrane-bound, and their key biological functions. We seek a molecular understanding of their structure, function, and interaction with other factors. A variety of biochemical, biophysical and molecular biological methods are being employed, with many overlapping interests and inter-group collaborations. Current research activities evolve around the following seven foci of interest:

  1. Protein structure, function, design and evolution

    Ephraim Katchalski-Katzir and his colleagues are investigating molecular mechanisms of protein recognition by examining interactions between specific proteins and peptides selected from a random peptide library. In parallel they develop and apply a theoretical protein-protein recognition algorithm (docking). Gideon Schreiber and his coworkers study the basic physico-chemical principles governing protein-protein interactions, and how these relate to complex biological processes. The gained understanding is implemented in several medically relevant systems such as the binding of interferon to its receptor, as well as in algorithm development. Meir Wilchek and his group are studying the structure of avidin and its exceptionally high affinity to biotin. The avidin-biotin complex is being utilized for a variety of new biotechnological applications. Edward A. Bayer and his colleagues are studying the structure, architecture and biotechnological applications of the multi-enzyme cellulosome complex, its interactions with cellulose and other plant cell-wall polysaccharides, and the utilization of recombinant designer cellulosomes for enhanced decomposition of cellulosic substrates in the conversion of biomass to bioenergy. The group of Dan S. Tawfik is interested in the mechanism and evolution of proteins, and enzymes in particular. They perform laboratory evolution experiments aimed at understanding how new proteins evolve, and at the creation of novel enzymes with tailor-made activities.

  2. Structure and function of ion channels, pumps, other transporters, viral envelope proteins, and photosynthesis proteins

    Several groups are investigating proteins that form specific pores across the cell membrane. Eitan Reuveny is investigating the molecular properties of a group of neuronal K+ channels and their interaction with G-proteins. Yechiel Shai's group uses a multidisciplinary approach to study the insertion, assembly and function of membrane proteins involved in immune response (TCR, TLR), infectious diseases (host-defense peptides; i.e. antimicrobial and anticancer peptides), and viral envelopes (HIV/SIV gp41). These studies also led to the design of novel potential antimicrobial, anticancer, immunosuppressive, and antiviral drugs. Nuclear pore complexes, multi-protein structures, that transport macromolecules in and out of the nucleus, are being studied by Ziv Reich. His work utilizes biophysical methods such as atomic force microscopy. Haim Garty focuses on two themes in the regulation of ion transport, which participate in maintaining body salt and water balance. One is the epithelial Na+ channel, which mediates the aldosterone-dependent Na+ reabsorption in the kidney and intestine, and the other is a new group of tissue specific regulators of the Na+/K+ ATPase, the FXYD proteins. Steven J. D. Karlish and his colleagues are exploring the structure and organization of Na,K-ATPase, and its regulation by FXYD proteins. This ion pump plays a central role in maintaining Na and K gradients across the cell membrane and is involved in the pathophysiology of essential hypertension. Another family of transport proteins, which extrude toxins from cells and hence pose a major obstacle in cancer chemotherapy and antibiotic treatment, is being studied by Eitan Bibi. The groups of Steven J. D. Karlish and Eitan Bibi are also interested in solving membrane protein structures by X-ray crystallography. Other researchers are interested in photosynthesis and its relation to ion transport. Zippora Gromet-Elhanan is studying the rotary mechanism of the photosynthetic F0F1 ATP synthase, using genetically engineered hybrid bacterial/plant F1-core assemblies and single molecule analysis. Shmuel Malkin's research in photosynthesis concentrated on accomplishing an artificial model system for understanding the role of zeaxanthin in the protection against photodamage under high light intensity. The groups of Uri Pick and Ada Zamir are collaborating to elucidate the mechanisms by which the green alga Dunaliella copes with extreme changes in external salinity and with iron deprivation.

  3. Mechanisms by which proteins and lipids are transported from their point of synthesis, sorted, and inserted into various organelles

    Studies related to this general problem in cell biology are being carried out in a number of laboratories. Eitan Bibi and his co-workers are studying the role of the signal recognition particle (SRP) and other cellular components in the biogenesis of prokaryotic membrane proteins. They seek to identify new components of the machinery, and to understand how ribosomes target and associate with the membrane, and how membrane protein synthesis is regulated. Zvulun Elazar is investigating intracellular protein traffic in eukaryotic systems. His work has led to the identification of new factors that couple transport vesicles to cytoskeletal elements. Delivery of lipids to the cell membrane, and their role in neuronal growth is being studied by Anthony Futerman and his colleagues, with particular emphasis on related diseases such as Gaucher, Tay-Sachs, and Niemann-Pick disease. Together with I. Silman and J. Sussman he recently solved the structure of cerezyme, the enzyme given to Gaucher disease patients. In addition, he is working on mechanisms of ceramide signaling, and has characterized a gene family involved in regulating ceramide synthesis.

  4. Signal transduction, and molecular pathogenesis

    Several researchers in the department are interested in problems related to signal transduction, chemotaxis and pathogenesis. Michael Eisenbachís group is investigating, at the molecular level, how bacteria navigate according to chemical cues (chemotaxis), and how human sperm cells are guided to the egg. Recently they found that the flagellar switch complex of E. coli contains fumarate reductase, which is important for all its functions. They also found that sperm guidance involves at least two steps: a long-range thermal guidance (thermotaxis) from the cooler sperm storage site in the female genital tract to the warmer fertilization site, and a short-range chemotaxis step to substances secreted from the egg. The group of David Wallach is studying mechanisms that control cell death and tissue damage, and involve the caspase cysteine-protease family, and transcription factors of the NF-kB family. They have cloned and characterized several proteins that participate in the induction of cell death and inflammation by receptors of the TNF/NGF family, and explore their mechanisms of action. Using transgenic mouse models, they currently focus on elucidating the contribution of genetic variations in these proteins to skin pathology, inflammatory disorders and cancer. Retrograde signaling complexes which govern neuronal growth and regeneration are being investigated by Michael Fainzilber and his co-workers. They have identified new targeting and scaffolding proteins that enable axon-cell body communication in neurons. David Mirelman and his co-workers are characterizing regulatory mechanisms that control the expression of virulence factors in the human intestinal protozoan parasite, Entamoeba histolytica. Other studies, in collaboration with the group of Meir Wilchek, focus on the therapeutic properties of the biologically active garlic molecule Allicin. Yoram Shechter is exploring the mechanism of action of insulin, with emphasis on post-receptor defects in adipose and muscle tissues that lead to insulin-resistance, and are therefore relevant to type II diabetes and obesity in humans. In addition he has developed technologies to prolong the life-time of peptides and protein drugs in vivo, and a therapeutic approach for overcoming states of insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes patients. Ruth Miskin is studying the plasminogen activation system, and is utilizing transgenic animals to reveal biological roles of this system. Therapeutic and pathogenic signals of the cell membrane, in tumor cells that are subjected to hydrostatic pressure are being examined by Meir Shinitzky. In addition, he investigates the effect on differentiation in breast cancer cells and neuoronal cells of cyclic phosphates, signaling molecules that originate from phospholipid degradation. Ehud Shapiro' s group is using a high-level computer process description language, Stochastic Pi Calculis, to mathematically specify and simulate signal transduction pathways.

  5. Genome maintenance and function: DNA repair and gene expression

    Zvi Livneh and his coworkers are exploring the molecular mechanisms of DNA repair and mutagenesis in mammals, and in particular translesion DNA synthesis (TLS) by specialized DNA polymerases, and the role of DNA repair in cancer susceptibility. Recently they discovered that TLS is regulated by p53 via p21 to maintain a low mutation load. They also discovered that reduced activity of the DNA repair enzyme OGG1 is a risk factor in lung and head and neck cancers. Two groups are studying mechanisms mediating regulation of gene expression. Rivka Dikstein and her associates are investigating the molecular mechanism of transcription regulation by TAFs, a highly conserved group of proteins that together with TBP (TATA-binding protein) constitutes the transcription initiation factor TFIID. Michael Walker and colleagues are investigating the regulation of specific gene expression in insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, and how embryonic stem cells can be induced to develop efficiently into beta cells. Recent studies have revealed that activity of GPR40, a novel beta cell receptor, helps explain the important, yet poorly understood connection between obesity and diabetes.

  6. Mechanisms of developmental regulation

    Avraham Yaronís group is studying the molecular mechanisms that govern axon guidance during embryonic development. They focus on the mechanisms by which guidance receptors are regulated, and how these receptors transmit their signals. Yoav Soen's group is using embryonic stem cells models to study how different layers of regulation interact to specify morphogenetic decisions, how these decisions are shaped by interactions between emerging precursors and how they are coordinated across a developing embryonic tissue.

  7. Biolmolecular computers and computation-based cell lineage analysis

    Ehud Shapiro and his team are investigating the engineering of computers made of biological molecules. They succeeded to construct a finite automaton made of DNA and enzymes, which is capable of sensing and diagnosing molecular disease symptoms, and in response releasing a drug-like molecule in a test-tube model system. In a different direction, advanced computational techniques combined with somatic mutation analysis are used for reconstructing cell lineage trees in cultured cells and in mice.

http://www.weizmann.ac.il/Biological_Chemistry/ 

Research Staff, Visitors and Students

Professors

Eitan Bibi , Ph.D., Hadassah Medical School, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
Israel
Michael Eisenbach , Ph.D., Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel
The Jack and Simon Djanogly Professor of Biochemistry
Anthony H. Futerman, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
The Joseph Meyerhoff Professor of Biochemistry
Haim Garty, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
The Hella and Derrick Kleeman Professor of Biochemistry
Steven J.D Karlish, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
The William D. Smithburg Professor of Biochemistry
Ephraim Katchalski-Katzir, Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Institute Professor
The Theodore R. Racoosin Professor of Biophysics
Zvi Livneh , Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
The Maxwell Ellis Professor of Biomedical Research
David Mirelman, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel (on extension of
service)
The Besen-Brender Professor of Microbiology and Parasitology
Yechiel Shai, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
The Harold S. and Harriet B. Brady Professor of Cancer Rrsearch
David Wallach, Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel

Professors Emeriti

S. Roy Caplan , Ph.D., University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
David Danon, Ph.D., University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
Carlos Gitler, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison, United States
Zippora Gromet-Elhanan, Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Ora Kedem, Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Shmuel Malkin , Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Israel R. Miller, Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Nathan Sharon, Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Meir Wilchek, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Ada Zamir, Ph.D., Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel

Associate Professors

Ed Bayer, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Rivka Dikstein, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Zvulun Elazar, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Michael Fainzilber , Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
The Chaya Professor in Molecular Neuroscience
Uri Pick, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
The Charles and Louise Gartner Professor
Ziv Reich, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Eitan Reuveny , Ph.D., Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, United States
Gideon Schreiber, Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Yoram Shechter, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
The Charles H. Hollenberg Professor of Diabetes and Metabolic Research
Dan Tawfik , Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Incumbent of the Elaine Blond Career Development Chair (until September 2006)
Michael Walker, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
The Marvin Myer and Jenny Cyker Professor of Diabetes Research

Senior Scientists

Yoav Soen, Ph.D., Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel
Incumbent of the Daniel E. Koshland Sr. Career Development Chair
Avraham Yaron, Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel

Senior Staff Scientists

Rivka Adar, Ph.D., Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel
Carol Asher, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Rina Barak, Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Talia Miron, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Daniel M. Tal , Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

Associate Staff Scientist

Elena Bochkareva, Ph.D., Institute of Protein Research, Academy of the USSR, Pushchino,
Russian Federation

Assistant Staff Scientists

Elena Appel, Ph.D., Medical School, Novosibirsk, Russian Federation
Yael Fridmann Sirkis, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Andrew Kovalenko, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Tamar Paz-Elizur, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Yael Pewzner-Jung, Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel

Junior Staff Scientists

Yoav Barak, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Ruti Kapon, Ph.D., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Ziv Sevilya, Ph.D., Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel
Swetlana Adamsky, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel (left April 2006)

Consultants

Diana Bach
Dov Gefel, Barzilai Hospital, Ashkelon, Israel
Halina Lis
Ruth Miskin
Meir Shinitzky

Visiting Scientists

Hannah Alexander, University of Missouri-Columbia, MO, Colombia
Stephen Alexander, University of Missouri-Columbia, MO, Colombia
Leon De Windt, Royal Netherlans Acad. of Science, Utrecht, Nederland
Rose Johnstone, McGill University , Montreal, Canada
Tae-Bong Kang, Technion, Haifa, Israel
Cintia Roodveldt, University of Cambridge, UK
S. Santhosh, University of Madurai Kamaraj, India
Laiqun Zhang, Beijing Normal University, PR China

Postdoctoral Fellows

Noga Alagem, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Lee David Albee, Ph.D., Saint Louis University
Gil Amitai , Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Gali Arad, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Katya Arnold, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Reut Bartoov, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Adam Ben-Shem, Ph.D., Tel-Aviv University, Israel
Yariv Brotman, Ph.D., Bar-Ilan University, Israel
Ofra Chen, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Eytan Cohen, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Galit Cohen-Ben-Lulu, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Shay Covo, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Mirit Dahan-Fumbar, Ph.D., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Yaacov Davidov, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Ephraim Fass, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Yael Fridmann-Sirkis, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Maria Fuzesi, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Moshe Goldsmith, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Elena Grimberg, Ph.D., Tel-Aviv University, Israel
Rinkoo Devi Gupta, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
Liat Haklai-Topper, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Katrin Hebel, Ph.D., Humboldt University Berlin
Adrian Hugenmatter, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ)
Elena Iavnilovitch, Ph.D., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Shachar Iwanir, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Irene Kholmyansky, Ph.D., Tel-Aviv University, Israel
Andrey Kovalenko, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Yakov Krelin, Ben-Gurion University, Israel
Yael Leitner-Dagan, Agriculture Faculty, Israel
Florence-Yeudith Maaravi, Ph.D., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Adi Mesika, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Izhak Michaelevski, Ph.D., Tel-Aviv University, Israel
Reinat Nevo, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Gisu Oh, Wonkwang University
Dilhan Oncel, UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
Rony Oren Benaroya, Ph.D., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Satheeshkumar Padikara Kutty, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai
Sergio Peisajovich, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Adi Peleg, Ph.D., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Vladimir Potapov, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Sarojini Santhosh Ramachandran, Ph.D., Madurai Kamaraj University
Parameswaran Ramakrishnan, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Avi Rimler, Ph.D., Tel-Aviv University, Israel
Ida Rishal, Ph.D., Tel-Aviv University, Israel
Laila C. Roisman, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Ziv Sevilya, Ph.D., Tel-Aviv University, Israel
Hezi Shaked, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Naomi Siew, Ph.D., Ben-Gurion University, Israel
Nobuhiko Tokuriki, Ph.D., Osaka University, Japan
Hailin Zheng, Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel

Research Students

Sheera Adar Nira Amar
Liat Amir-Zilberstein Michael Anbar
Sharon Avkin Tali Avnit-Sagi
Liat Bahari Anat Bahat
Reut Bartoov-Shifman Roy Bekerman
Talya Belogus Keren Ben Yaakov
Tuval Ben Yehezkel Efrat Ben-Zeev
Shimon Bershtein Yonathan Caspi
Silvia G. Chuartzman Mati Cohen
Tomer Cohen Galit Cohen-Ben-Lulu
Shay Covo Noam Diamant
Elizabeta Dinitz Yudin Dmitry
Asa Eitan Rofa Elfakess
Racheli Erez Ephraim Fass
Dan Frumkin Maria Gabriella Fuzesi
Anna Gakamsky Leonid Gaydukov
Kfir Gazit Binyamin Gil 
Lyubov (Luba) Ginzburg Michal Golan-Mashiach
Bracha Halaf Liraz Harel
Haim Haviv Ayal Hendel
Shachar Iwanir Lior Izhar
Diego Jaitin Jaakov Kacher
Eyal Kalie Shai Kaplan
Alon Karpol Olga Khersonsky
Jin Chul Kim Noga Dalia Kowalsman
Noga Kozer-Gourevich Sujoy Lahiri
Anat Lavi Itzkovitz Elena Levin
Orna Liarzi Yael Lifshitz
Moshit Lindzen Irina Lubarski
Arik Makovitzki Elinor Malul
Ilit Noach Niv Papo
Yakov Paz Ofer Rahat
Akhil Rajput Parameswaran Ramakrishnan
Ophir Rav-Hon Adi Raveh
Dana Reichmann  Gabriela Ridner
Inbal Riven Peter Rohac Reuven
Laila Catalina Roisman Cintia Roodveldt
Yosef Rosenfeld Kelly Sackett
Rona Sadja Gertner Neta Sal-Man
Ruth Scherz-Shoval Yael Segal-Ruder
Sigal Shachar Saroj Shekhawat
Hagai Shorer Elena Shvets
Nadejda Sigal Michal Slutzki
Nathan Strul Einat Vitner
Adam Wasserstrom  Hilla Weidberg
Nomy Wender Yael Wexler- Cohen
Itamar Yadid Ganit Yarden
Ido Yosef

Administrator

Maanit Zibziner