The Pflum Laboratory employs novel strategies and ‘W the Warrior’ to unravel the mysteries of cancer.
Mary Kay Pflum received a B.A. degree from Carleton College under the mentorship of Dr. Jerry Mohrig in physical organic chemistry. In Ph.D. training at Yale University with Dr. Alanna Schepartz, she worked on several bioorganic projects focusing on phosphoproteins and transcription factors. Following an NIH post-doctoral position at Harvard University with Dr. Stuart Schreiber where she studied histone deacetylase proteins, Pflum joined the faculty at Wayne State University in 2001 and is currently the Director of Graduate Studies.
The Pflum lab research program focuses on two cancer-related proteins – kinase and histone deacetylase (HDAC) enzymes. Both enzyme families control protein post-translational modifications, which can profoundly influence protein function. However, identifying the substrates of these two enzyme families has been challenging due to the paucity of available tools. Our lab aims to develop chemical methods to characterize the activities and substrates of kinases and HDAC proteins. The multi-disciplinary research combines the fields of organic synthesis, biochemistry, enzymology, molecular biology, analytical chemistry, mass spectrometry, and cell biology.
The picture above, with ‘W the Warrior, was taken shortly after we first reported use of ATP analogs to label, visualize, and enrich phosphorylated proteins from protein or peptide mixtures. It was a memorable afternoon with moon-walking, pranking young children and tossing free T-shirts into neighboring labs.