Biochem Blogs

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The traveling biochemist: Enzymes, pathways, proteases, and homeostasis


Clay Clark – @biochemprofI'm on ScienceSeeker-Microscope

As I’ve written before in this blog, one of the advantages of working in an academic institution is the opportunity of international travel. Science is a world-wide endeavor, and one should take opportunities to visit international colleagues whenever possible. I was invited recently to two international conferences to give seminars on caspases and allostery. The first conference was in Playa Del Carmen – Xcaret, Mexico (Enzymes, Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways), and the second conference was in Navi Mumbai, India, at ACTREC (Advanced Center for Treatment, Research, and Education in Cancer), part of the TATA Memorial Cancer Center in India.

The enzymes conference in Xcaret was organized by Beatrice Golinelli-Pimpaneau and Elizabeth Komives and focused on enzyme function and regulation, coenzymes, metabolism, and methods for examining enzyme structure and function. There were many good talks on protein conformational changes, protein dynamics, kinases, and morpheeins. (If you are not sure what a morpheein is or how it relates to enzyme allostery, then see the review below by Eileen Jaffee (1)). The schedule of speakers is provided here. The five-day conference was held in the beautiful Occidental Grand Xcaret resort, an all-inclusive environment with great food, drinks, pools, and a private bay for swimming and snorkeling (a couple of pictures are below along with a video of flamingos out for a walk). The weather was ~85 ºF all week, compared to mid-50s in Raleigh, so it was good to be in the Caribbean for a few days. Overall, the environment was terrific, and the seminars were outstanding.


Playa Del Carmen – Xcaret


Macaw at Xcaret Hotel






Two weeks after returning from Playa Del Carmen, I attended the proteases conference in Mumbai (Conceptual Advances in Cellular Homeostasis Regulated by Proteases and Chaperones), which was organized by Prasanna Venkatraman from ACTREC. The speakers included researchers from the US and from India, and the plenary talk was given by Alfred Goldberg on his work on the proteasome and development of proteasome inhibitors. The four day meeting featured discussions of protein degradation, chaperones, drug design and targeting, and proteases in human diseases. I particularly enjoyed panel discussions on drug design and targeting organized by the post-docs and students at ACTREC.

Following the meeting, I traveled with Dr. Kakoli Bose, her daughter, and Dr. Pradip Chaudhari to Gir National Forest for a two day safari. (You can read a recent article on ACTREC animal cancer center and Dr. Pradip Chaudhari here). Gir forest is a wild-life sanctuary and home to Asiatic lions. The trip began with a ~1.5 hour flight from Mumbai to Rajkot (in Gujarat state) followed by a ~4-5 hour drive to Gir forest. If you’ve never driven in India, then I’ll tell you that it is simultaneously exhilarating and frightening. Check out these two short videos of us on the road to Gir and driving through a small town in India. One should note that the first video is a bit shaky because of the state of the road, which is shared by cars, trucks, buses, farm vehicles, and carts.


While in Gir, we went on two safaris. The four of us sat in the back of an open-air jeep while a driver and guide drove us through various trails in the forest. The fauna in Gir forest is incredible – deer, monkeys, oxen, birds – but the highlight was sighting two lionesses on the first day (picture below) and a lion on the second day (video below).

This was my second trip to Mumbai, and although traveling in India is challenging, the trip to Gir Forest was fantastic and well worth the effort. The slide show below includes a few images of Gir Forest in Gujarat State, India, as well as a couple of temples and fort visited along the way. A few videos of my two-day safari are shown below, highlighted by a close encounter with a lion.


Lioness in Gir Forest


I came *this* close to a lion. See the video here.






Gir Forest Monkey


You can feed the monkeys from your car. See the video here.




Deer in Gir Forest

Deer in Gir Forest


There are lots of deer in Gir Forest. You can see two videos here or here.






Pradip Chadhauri, Kakoli Bose, Clay Clark

Pradip Chadhauri, Kakoli Bose, Clay Clark at Gir National Forest


Gir Forest is rich in fauna. See a video of a pride of peafowl here.






1. Jaffe E.K. (2005). Morpheeins – a new structural paradigm for allosteric regulation, Trends in Biochemical Sciences, 30 (9) 490-497. DOI: