The twin-arginine translocation pathway (OR: My husband, the Dr.)

Yesterday was a big day. The McDonoughs, the Rotondaros and various friends, including many scientists, gathered in a conference room on campus to listen to J give his final talk as a grad student at UNC. He explained all his research to us, six years in the making.

It's official - I have, literally, no idea what my husband does. He knows a scientific language that I cannot comprehend. There were parts of the talk where he seemed to be just uttering a stream of consonants that stood for God knows what while I looked on, aghast, watching other microbiologists in the audience nod their head solemnly because I guess they got it or something.

He is, like, a genius. And, very good at giving Power Point presentations.

For those of you who couldn't make it, I offer this, my best attempt at a recap of what he said, which, no doubt, will be a mostly incorrect translation:

Many people get tuberculosis every year. They get it when people sneeze on them. Sometimes they don't take their drugs and multi-drug resistant versions of the bacteria crop up. This is unfortunate. There is a thing called the Tat (twin-arginine translocation) pathway and it causes some things to happen. For instance, some very, very tiny pieces of part of the bacteria might travel through it, to the outside of a cell or molecule or something like that. When this happens, tuberculosis might become more virulent. Or it might not. There is another thing called BlaC and this is pretty important as well. Sometimes J works on this type of bacteria called smegmatis instead of tuberculosis because it grows faster. Tuberculosis grows slowly. It is difficult. But, apparently, pretty interesting. J did a "Western Blot" at one point. This experiment proved a couple things. Some findings. One thing he did a lot, over and over again, was delete the Tat from DNA. Maybe. He looked at a lot of strains, which are identified sort of like this


Other scientists could do some more work on the Tat if they wanted, and this might yield some additional findings. But for now, these are the discoveries. Take your full course of antibiotics. TB kills.

I am so incredibly proud of Justin McDonough, PhD.