Mukhopadhyay Wins Research Excellence Award

By Nick Nobel
September 10, 2020
Dr. Mukhopadhyay standing in research laboratory surrounded by scientific equipment

Somshuvra Mukhopadhyay, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., associate professor in the Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology, earned the 2020 Co-op Research Excellence Award for Best Paper. The awards are presented each year by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the University Co-operative Society.

The Co-op Research Excellence Awards recognize the outstanding efforts of UT's faculty and research staff. These awards have become one of the most prominent symbols of peer recognition at The University of Texas at Austin, not only for career-long accomplishments and scientific research output but also for creative research and artistic endeavors.

Mukhopadhyay won the award for his paper SLC30A10 transporter in the digestive system regulates brain manganese under basal conditions while brain SLC30A10 protects against neurotoxicity. The Best Research Paper Award recognizes extraordinary achievement by a faculty member or staff researcher who was the principal or sole author of a peer-reviewed scholarly paper reporting original research and published during January 1 – December 31, 2019.

The research was performed by Mukhopadhyay’s group at UT Austin with important contributions from the lab of Donald Smith, Ph.D., professor of Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The researchers showed that brain manganese is regulated by activity of the gene SLC30A10 in the digestive system. This finding provides a novel mechanism for how manganese levels are normally regulated and suggests that changes to SLC30A10 activity in the digestive system may affect neurological outcomes from manganese exposure.

The research was supported by grant funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Dr. Mukhopadhyay. The NIEHS named it one of 2019’s Papers of the Year. It had previously named it as one of March 2019’s Papers of the Month.

The Grand Prize, three runners-up, and the Textbook Award will be announced at the Co-op Awards ceremony on October 14, 2020.

The Mukhopadhyay Lab focuses on understanding cell biology of human disease. Its two major research projects involve parkinsonism and metal homeostasis, and intracellular trafficking of Shiga and related bacterial toxins. This research paper focuses primarily on the first research project. Metals, such as iron, manganese, and copper, are essential for life, but become toxic at elevated levels and cause severe neurological diseases, such as parkinsonism.