Diana Najera


Education: Bachelor of Science in biochemistry (May 2021)

Currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy at the interdisciplinary graduate program in biomedical sciences at the University of Kansas

McNair Project: Malvolio: A Divalent Metal Cation Transporter (2020)

Mentor: Maureen Gorman, Ph.D.

Iron is essential for all organisms including insects; however, at high levels it is toxic. Therefore, the transport and uptake of iron must be well-regulated, and in insects this process is poorly understood. Malvolio (Mvl), a D. melanogaster (fruit fly) gene identified in a screen for mutants that affect taste behavior, is thought to be involved in the transport of ferrous iron. Mvl is homologous to DMT1, which is a mammalian protein that has been shown to be an iron transporter. Two studies of Mvl from D. melanogaster and one study of Mvl from Anopheles albimanus (mosquito) support the hypothesis that Mvl is actually a divalent metal transporter that mediates iron uptake. Mvl is expressed throughout the full life cycle of the fruit fly as well as all the tissues that were tested in Flybase. It is also expressed in all the cell lines that were tested, with the cell lines embryonic Kc167 and embryonic GM2 having the highest expression. Mvl has been predicted to be localized in membranes, including endosome and plasma membranes, and several studies support these predictions; however, the precise subcellular location of Mvl is still not certain. Knowing that Mvl is expressed throughout development in many cell types and that Mvl is likely to be present in endosome and plasma membranes strongly suggests that Mvl is truly involved in iron transport.