“On the one hand science is society’s servant, attacking applied problems … on the other hand, it functions as society’s teacher, helping the latter to understand its world and itself” -Carl Woese
Max Baymiller grew up in the mountains of Silver City, New Mexico, and received his B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in 2015. While there he studied microbial diversity in the deep continental subsurface with Dr. Tom Kieft, and spent many hours wondering at phylogenetic trees. Max joined the Martinis lab in the UIUC Department of Biochemistry in 2016 to pursue his love of ancient biology by working on the venerable aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, and is currently investigating how these age-old proteins have been repurposed for novel roles and “new biology” throughout the evolution of eukaryotes.
The aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (AARS) perform the critical first step in translation by attaching the correct amino acids to their cognate tRNAs. Throughout their lengthy evolution, insertions and whole domain additions to the ancient catalytic core of AARS have enhanced their canonical function and accuracy. For example, in a subclass of AARS’s that aminoacylate aliphatic amino acids – including leucyl (LeuRS) and isoleucyl (IleRS) tRNA synthetases – an insertion known as CP1 hydrolyzes mischarged amino acids to improve catalytic fidelity. More recently, it has been discovered that the diverse binding sites of AARS have been co-opted by evolution for new roles that are distinct from aminoacylation. In humans and yeast, for instance, LeuRS uses its highly specific leucine-binding site to act as an amino acid sensor for the TOR complex, which regulates cell growth and proliferation. Analysis of a transcription regulatory network (TRN) model of Apis mellifera brains that probed honey bee behavior in nursing, foraging, and aggression revealed a surprising neurogenomic link between IleRS expression and maturation of foraging behavior. Interestingly, isoleucine has also been documented to be a limiting nutrient in the honey bee diet, and thus may be an important environmental dietary que. From these data, we hypothesize that IleRS may act as an isoleucine sensor which influences the honey bee neural transcriptome and subsequently foraging behavior.