February 5, 2016 at 12:30pm

Millikin researchers publish efforts in Biochemistry Research International

Millikin research

Researchers from Millikin University's Department of Biology have published an article in Biochemistry Research International, a peer-reviewed, open access journal that publishes original research articles in all areas of biochemistry.

The article reports on the differences in GPR30 regulation by chlorotriazine herbicides in human breast cells. The article was accepted for publication by Biochemistry Research International on Jan. 10, 2016. The article is authored by Dr. Jennifer Schroeder, Millikin associate professor of biology, and co-authored by Millikin alumni Colin Florian '14 and Shelly Mansfield '14.

Over 200,000 cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed annually. Herbicide contaminants in local water sources may be contributing to the growth of these cancers. GPR30 is recognized as a potential receptor that may interact with triazine herbicides, such as atrazine. The goal of the Millikin research project was to identify whether atrazine affects the expression of GPR30.

Jennifer Schroeder"One of the lines of research we look at is pesticides that are used in the environment, especially locally because of the crop production, and one of the big ones is atrazine," said Dr. Schroeder. "Atrazine has been a target pesticide that many people have looked at and one of the things we've done over the last several years is try to get ideas as to what atrazine might do in the presence of cancer cells and non-cancerous cells."

Millikin researchers looked at whether atrazine would increase or decrease cell growth rates. They used three different cell lines and treated them with different amounts of the pesticide and looked specifically at a protein called GPR30. GPR30 is a protein embedded in the cell membranes.

"It's thought that GPR30 might be a receptor for estrogens, and there are people who have thought that it may be a receptor for pesticides," said Dr. Schroeder. "One of the things we wanted to look at was whether the levels changed at all around pesticides."

What the researchers found was that in normal cells the treatment with pesticides decreased the amount of GPR30, and in the cancerous cells the amount of GPR30 increased.

Dr. Schroeder noted, "It could be one of the many differences that we see between cancerous and non-cancerous cells. I'm hopeful that this research will make a difference because there have been a lot of questions as to the safety of these kinds of chemicals."

Millikin research

In reference to the research experience, Schroeder says, "Students are able to perform hands-on activities, develop a project and learn valuable skills that they can take forward into an industry position or post-graduate work. It's neat to see the students grasp a better understanding of cancer research."  

Click here to view the published research article in Biochemistry Research International.