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Bryan Krantz joins chemistry department

Bryan Krantz hard at work assembling one of his bacterial incubators.

Bryan Krantz, a native of Cincinnati, OH, is the Department of Chemistry’s newest assistant professor. He joins the faculty after a postdoctoral position with John Collier at Harvard Medical School. Krantz will have 50 percent appointments in chemistry and the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology.

Krantz is busy setting up his lab on the third floor of Hildebrand Hall in the space formerly occupied by Jack Kirsch, who retired during summer 2006. He is installing several pieces of equipment that he has built himself. Krantz attributes his knack with tools and hardware to his father, a chemical engineer.

After earning his B.S. in chemistry at Atlanta’s Emory University in 1996, Krantz pondered what to do next. “I almost went to medical school,” he says, “but I decided that my interest really lies in research, not clinical work.” Instead, Krantz opted for a Ph.D. in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Chicago.

Krantz began his postdoc in 2003 at Harvard, where his research focused on pores in cellular membranes and how they cause proteins to unfold. His mentor, John Collier, has spent more than 15 years studying the three components of anthrax toxin. Together their research has led to seminal findings on how components of anthrax toxin unfold and move into cells.

Imagine trying to push a paper clip through a hole only one millimeter wide. The only way to do it is to unfold the paperclip into a long straight wire. To move complex folded proteins across cell membranes, cells use a similar strategy—they cause the proteins to unfold and then employ a force to pull the unfolded molecule through a pore in their membrane.

But how cells do this has been a mystery. Krantz’s work with Collier at Harvard has helped solve the mystery, at least for anthrax, a rare but dangerous bacteria that hijacks these mechanisms to transport toxins into cells.

Krantz is the lead author of a paper published in the July 29, 2005, edition of Science magazine that describes in detail how the anthrax toxin is pulled into cells. Using electrophysiology and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, Krantz and colleagues described both the structure of the pore and what they call the molecular “ratchet” that transports the unfolded protein.

“Anthrax is just one of many diseases caused in part by bacterial toxins,” says Krantz. “Others include diphtheria, tetanus and botulism. But my work doesn’t focus on a particular disease,” Krantz adds. “Instead, I am trying to understand more generally how pores in cellular membranes interact with proteins to cause them to unfold and move.”

When asked what drew him to Berkeley, Krantz cites the new Stanley Hall facilities and “the ability to work on the interdisciplinary boundary of chemistry and biology.” Krantz lives in El Cerrito with his wife, Kristin Krantz, a recently ordained Episcopal priest, and their 16-month-old son.


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Professor Krantz / UCB Department of Chemistry

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