Tsvetkov Lab Profile & Members

Andrey Tsvetkov PhD – Assistant Professor

Overview of Research

G-quadruplexes in the brain
DNA and RNA sequences containing four stretches of guanines are able to form tetra-stranded stable structures called the G-quadruplex (G4-DNA and G4-RNA). Although G4-DNA and G4-RNA have been studied in vitro for years, it is now clear that these structures are controlled by various G4-binding proteins and play important roles in DNA replication, transcription, and RNA processing in vivo. In the lab, we investigate whether manipulating G4-DNA and G4-RNA pathways could be a new target for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and slowing aging.

Molecular mechanisms of neuronal autophagy
Abnormal intracellular protein deposits and damaged organelles characterize many neurodegenerative disorders. Neurons are less able to degrade abnormal proteins and damaged organelles as they become older, linking the build-up of protein deposits and organelles and the appearance of adult-onset neurodegenerative disorders. We focus on the physiological and pathophysiological functions of macroautophagy (often called autophagy) in age-associated neuronal dysfunction and neurodegeneration. Our studies strongly suggest that at least some autophagic pathways can be modified with autophagy enhancers to boost degradation of abnormal protein, resulting in improved neuronal health.

Transcriptional dysregulation in brain aging
Epigenetic mechanisms, such as chemical modifications of DNA or associated proteins, are important in modulating gene transcription and, as a result, in regulating mechanisms of healthy and pathogenic aging. Phospholipids are abundant within the interior of the nucleus, but their function is not clear. Our data suggest that phospholipids target many proteins in the neuronal nucleus that epigenetically control transcription and DNA homeostasis. The goals of this project are to uncover fundamental molecular mechanisms by which phospholipids transcriptionally regulate successful and unsuccessful aging.

Chemotherapy- and virus-induced brain damage and aging
The degenerative processes induced by some chemicals or neurotropic viruses are remarkably similar to processes in aging. Thus, the mechanisms by which neurons cope with a chemical or viral insult may be a useful model of natural aging. Understanding the common mechanisms in chemically or virally associated neurological disturbances and aging can produce insights into our understanding of aging in general. The goals of this project are to understand molecular mechanisms by which chemotherapy drugs and neurotropic viruses induce neuronal dysfunction and accelerated aging.

Join Us

A postdoctoral position is available in the Tsvetkov lab. A Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. in molecular biology, cell biology, neuroscience or related field is required. Interested candidates should send a CV, a research statement, and contact information of three referees to Andrey.S.Tsvetkov@uth.tmc.edu. Summer student positions are also available.

Rocio Diaz Escarcega, PhD – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Education and Training
B.S. Chemistry, biology with minor in pharmacy
Ph.D. Neuroscience (2019)

Areas of Interests
Neurodegenerative diseases, molecular neurobiology, pharmacovigilance, machine and deep learning for image analyses

Research & Experience
I worked in a Neurophysiology lab under the guidance of Dr. Beltran-Parrazal and Dr. Morgado-Valle at the University of Veracruz, Mexico. I studied the subcellular distribution of fusion and fission proteins and their correlation with mitochondria morphology in response of Ca2+ homeostasis in neurons and astrocytes.

Currently studying neuronal functions of sphingosine kinase 2 (SK2) with Andrey Tsvetkov at The University of Texas McGovern Medical School at Houston. SK2 is a molecule that generates a fat-like compound that participates in a variety of processes critical for cells in the brain. We discovered that SK2 regulates a variety of processes in the neuronal nucleus including DNA damage responses, transcription, and protein degradation. Using novel fluorescence microscopy techniques and disease models, I plan to identify the molecular mechanisms regulated by SK2 in aging and neurodegeneration.

Hobbies & interests
Cooking, movies, sleeping, traveling and I love reptiles

Abhijeet Patil 

Education and Training
B.S.  Zoology
M.S. Biotechnology-Animal Physiology
M.S.  Biology (2021)

Areas of Interest
Neurodegenerative diseases, nerve regeneration, molecular neurobiology, molecular cell biology

Research & Experience
Studied characterization of GAP43-GFP fusion protein in PC12 and NIH3T3 cell line models to understand nerve regeneration at Texas A&M University- Kingsville. Project involved generation of stable pools expressing high levels of GAP43-GFP fusion protein and performing differentiation assay.

Hobbies & Interests
Swimming, cycling, reading and cooking. Also, enjoy visiting new places and exploring the world.