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    Last Name

    Brian Anthony Kelch PhD

    TitleAssistant Professor
    InstitutionUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School
    DepartmentBiochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
    AddressUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School
    364 Plantation Street, LRB 923
    Worcester MA 01605
      Other Positions
      InstitutionUMMS - Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
      DepartmentBiochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

      InstitutionUMMS - Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
      DepartmentBioinformatics and Computational Biology

      InstitutionUMMS - Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
      DepartmentInterdisciplinary Graduate Program

      InstitutionUMMS - Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
      DepartmentMD/PhD Program

        Please visit the Kelch Lab website!

        Academic Background

        Brian received his PhD from the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics at UCSF in 2007, where he studied the folding mechanism of a class of ultrastable proteases with David Agard. He was a NRSA fellow with John Kuriyan at UC Berkeley where he studied the structural mechanisms of macromolecular machines involved in DNA replication. He joined the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology in 2012.

        Structure & Mechanism of DNA replication machines

        The major focus of my lab is determining the structural mechanisms of the macromolecular machines that carry out DNA replication.

        Macromolecular machines are assemblies of proteins and/or nucleic acids that play key roles in DNA replication, transcription, translation, virus maturation, and many other cellular functions. Accordingly, they are important therapeutic targets for the development of novel anticancer and antiviral agents. However, understanding how the individual components operate together is often elusive.

        The Kelch laboratory takes an interdisciplinary approach to study whole macromolecular machines and determine their mechanism.

        Clamp Loaders & DNA replication

        High-speed replication of chromosomal DNA requires the DNA polymerase to be attached to a ring-shaped sliding clamp that encircles DNA and prevents the polymerase from falling off DNA. Sliding clamps are crucial for DNA replication, DNA repair, cell cycle control and modification of chromatin structure. Defects in several clamp-associated factors are associated with cancer and other disorders.

        The clamp loader, a member of AAA+ family of ATPases, opens sliding clamps and places them on DNA for polymerase to bind. Thus, the clamp loader is critical for the tight coupling of leading and lagging strand synthesis. In order to gain an understanding of the mechanism of the clamp loading reaction at the atomic level, we determined the structure of the clamp loader in complex with its two macromolecular substrates: the sliding clamp and primer-template DNA (Figure 1).

        Kelch pic 1
        Figure 1: Structure of the complex of clamp loader, sliding clamp, and primer-template DNA (Kelch et al Science 2011).

        Based on our recent structural analysis of intermediates in clamp loader reaction cycle (Kelch et al Science 2011; Kelch et al BMC Bio 2012), we have proposed a detailed model of the clamp loading mechanism, as described in Figure 2. The clamp loader traps a spiral conformation of the open clamp so that both the loader and the clamp match the helical symmetry of DNA. The symmetric spiral of the clamp loader is dependent on the binding of ATP at the interfaces between AAA+ modules of the clamp loader. We propose that ATP hydrolysis breaks the symmetric spiral of the AAA+ modules, leading to the clamp loader dissolving its contacts with both the clamp and the DNA.

        Kelch pic 2

        Figure 2: Proposed mechanism of the clamp loading cycle.

        Action of enzymes on sliding clamps

        Once the clamp is loaded onto DNA, it acts as a sliding platform for the action of scores of enzymes and other proteins to scan and act on DNA. The clamp acts as a central hub to organize the activities of enzymes in the various cellular pathways of DNA replication, DNA repair, cell cycle control, chromatin structure and apoptosis.

        However, how these various activities are coordinated spatially and temporally is unknown. We want to know the cellular, molecular and structural determinants for this coordination.

        We are developing model systems to understand the dynamics of enzymes on the clamp and to understand how their activity is regulated while on the sliding clamp.

        Structural and mechanistic studies of alternative clamp loaders

        Eukaryotic organisms have an array of alternative clamp loaders that are used in pathways distinct from DNA replication, such as DNA damage and checkpoint control, sister chromatid cohesion, and recombination (Figure 3). These clamp loaders have been suggested to be important targets for novel cancer therapeutics. Despite differing from the replicative clamp loader by just one subunit in the pentameric assembly, the alternative clamp loaders exhibit significant functional and mechanistic differences. For example the Rad24 clamp loader binds a different sliding clamp, the ’9-1-1 complex’ (Majka & Burgers, PNAS 2003), and functions at the 5’ DNA junction, the opposite polarity to that of the replicative clamp loader (Ellison & Stillman, PLOS Bio 2003).

        Our goal is to determine the structural and biochemical basis for the mechanistic and functional differences of the alternative clamp loaders from their replicative clamp loader cousins. We will also understand how alternative clamp loaders are regulated and integrated into the pathways of recombination, sister chromatid cohesion and DNA repair. These studies will reveal how AAA+ machines can be regulated, as well as identifying the mechanistic underpinnings of these key components of important cellular pathways.

        Kelch pic 3

        Figure 3: The function of the alternative clamp loaders

        Rotation Projects

        We are seeking grad students who are motivated to understand the structural mechanisms of molecular machines that are involved in critical biological pathways. 
        Potential rotation projects are available to investigate the structural mechanism of clamp loaders and the coordination of the activity clamp-bound enzymes.


        Please contact Brian Kelch for more details.


        Post Docs

        A postdoctoral position is available to study in the laboratory. Please contact Dr. Kelch for additional details.

        selected publications
        List All   |   Timeline
        1. Kelch BA. Review: The lord of the rings: Structure and mechanism of the sliding clamp loader. Biopolymers. 2016 Aug; 105(8):532-46.
          View in: PubMed
        2. Duffy CM, Hilbert BJ, Kelch BA. A Disease-Causing Variant in PCNA Disrupts a Promiscuous Protein Binding Site. J Mol Biol. 2016 Mar 27; 428(6):1023-40.
          View in: PubMed
        3. Hilbert BJ, Hayes JA, Stone NP, Duffy CM, Sankaran B, Kelch BA. Structure and mechanism of the ATPase that powers viral genome packaging. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Jul 21; 112(29):E3792-9.
          View in: PubMed
        4. Bohn MF, Shandilya SM, Silvas TV, Nalivaika EA, Kouno T, Kelch BA, Ryder SP, Kurt-Yilmaz N, Somasundaran M, Schiffer CA. The ssDNA Mutator APOBEC3A Is Regulated by Cooperative Dimerization. Structure. 2015 May 5; 23(5):903-11.
          View in: PubMed
        5. Barros T, Guenther J, Kelch B, Anaya J, Prabhakar A, O'Donnell M, Kuriyan J, Lamers MH. A structural role for the PHP domain in E. coli DNA polymerase III. BMC Struct Biol. 2013; 13:8.
          View in: PubMed
        6. Kelch BA, Salimi NL, Agard DA. Functional modulation of a protein folding landscape via side-chain distortion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jun 12; 109(24):9414-9.
          View in: PubMed
        7. Kelch BA, Makino DL, O'Donnell M, Kuriyan J. Clamp loader ATPases and the evolution of DNA replication machinery. BMC Biol. 2012; 10:34.
          View in: PubMed
        8. Kelch BA, Makino DL, O'Donnell M, Kuriyan J. How a DNA polymerase clamp loader opens a sliding clamp. Science. 2011 Dec 23; 334(6063):1675-80.
          View in: PubMed
        9. Simonetta KR, Kazmirski SL, Goedken ER, Cantor AJ, Kelch BA, McNally R, Seyedin SN, Makino DL, O'Donnell M, Kuriyan J. The mechanism of ATP-dependent primer-template recognition by a clamp loader complex. Cell. 2009 May 15; 137(4):659-71.
          View in: PubMed
        10. Kelch BA, Agard DA. Mesophile versus thermophile: insights into the structural mechanisms of kinetic stability. J Mol Biol. 2007 Jul 20; 370(4):784-95.
          View in: PubMed
        11. Kelch BA, Eagen KP, Erciyas FP, Humphris EL, Thomason AR, Mitsuiki S, Agard DA. Structural and mechanistic exploration of acid resistance: kinetic stability facilitates evolution of extremophilic behavior. J Mol Biol. 2007 May 4; 368(3):870-83.
          View in: PubMed
        12. Saleh L, Kelch BA, Pathickal BA, Baldwin J, Ley BA, Bollinger JM. Mediation by indole analogues of electron transfer during oxygen activation in variants of Escherichia coli ribonucleotide reductase R2 lacking the electron-shuttling tryptophan 48. Biochemistry. 2004 May 25; 43(20):5943-52.
          View in: PubMed
        13. Fuhrmann CN, Kelch BA, Ota N, Agard DA. The 0.83 A resolution crystal structure of alpha-lytic protease reveals the detailed structure of the active site and identifies a source of conformational strain. J Mol Biol. 2004 May 14; 338(5):999-1013.
          View in: PubMed
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