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L. Mario Amzel, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. L. Mario Amzel, Ph.D.

Director, Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry

Professor of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry

Research Interests: Nudix hydrolases; PI3K; VP14; Structural enzymology of redox and phosphoryl-transfer enzymes; Selected areas of structural thermodynamics; MICAL; Redox and phosphoryl transfer enzymes; Three dimensional structure and mechanism of proteins ...read more

Background

Dr. L. Mario Amzel is professor of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Amzel serves as the director of the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry.

His research focuses on structural mechanistic biochemistry and structural thermodynamics. Amzel was the first to uncover the structure of part of an antibody, the molecule that helps the human immune system fight off infection. He was also part of a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins who produced the first high-resolution pictures of how antibodies interact with antigens.

Dr. Amzel’s research focuses on understanding protein structure and function, especially as is relevant to the immune system, infectious disease and cancer. His research team studies the chemistry of reactions carried out by enzymes. By determining the three-dimensional structures of these proteins and the conditions that affect their efficiency, they are able to figure out the roles they play in the body. Some of the information they gather is being used to design drugs targeting the enzymes.

Dr. Amzel earned his Ph.D. from the Universidad de Beunos Aires in Argentina in 1968. He joined Johns Hopkins in 1969 for a postdoctoral fellowship and stayed, earning full professorial status in 1984.

Amzel is an active lecturer at Johns Hopkins where he serves as course director of “Biochemical and Biophysical Principles.” He was awarded the 1994 Teacher of the Year Award and, in 1999, he received the University Alumni Teaching Award. In 2013, Amzel was admitted as a fellow into the American Association for Advancement of Science. He serves on numerous committees at Johns Hopkins and is on the editorial boards of several leading scientific publications.

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Titles

  • Director, Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry
  • Professor of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry
  • Professor of Oncology

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Amzel’s research focuses on structural mechanistic biochemistry and structural thermodynamics. Amzel was the first to uncover the structure of part of an antibody, the molecule that helps the human immune system fight off infection. He was also part of a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins who produced the first high-resolution pictures of how antibodies interact with antigens, foreign molecules invading the body.

Since then, Amzel has determined the structure of many proteins and protein complexes. Amzel also studies how proteins fold and take on their three-dimensional shapes and how proteins catalyze biochemical reactions within cells. Some of his findings are being used to design drugs targeting the enzymes.

Lab

Dr. Amzel’s lab is studying the catalytic mechanism of several enzyme families, using molecular biology, biochemistry and structural biology. They are studying both enzymes that recognize or process phosphates and redox enzymes. Cloning and expression, ultrapurification, kinetic characterization, mutational analysis, mass spectrometry, crystallization, and structure determination by x-ray diffraction are some of the techniques the lab uses to characterize the mechanisms of these enzymes. As the team uncovers information about the enzyme systems, other researchers are designing new drugs based on their discoveries.

In addition to enzyme studies, Dr. Amzel’s lab studies structural thermodynamics. Researchers in his lab have developed several systems, including anti-peptide antibodies and lectins, to see how proteins interact and bond to macromolecules or ligands. They are developing computational methods to calculate the changes in the thermodynamic variables that take place when a protein recognizes another macromolecule or a small ligand. As research in this lab reveals more about binding energetics, other researchers can take that knowledge and apply it to structure-based drug design.

Lab Website: Structural Enzymology and Thermodynamics Group

Selected Publications

View all on Pubmed

Aripirala S, Gonzalez-Pacanowska D, Oldfield E, Kaiser M, Amzel LM, Gabelli SB. "Structural and thermodynamic basis of the inhibition of Leishmania major farnesyl diphosphate synthase by nitrogen-containing bisphosphonates." Acta Crystallogr D Biol Crystallogr. 2014 Mar

Phelps BR, Ahmed S, Amzel A, Diallo MO, Jacobs T, Kellerman SE, Kim MH, Sugandhi N, Tam M, Wilson-Jones M, Child Survival Working Group of the Interagency Task Team on the Prevention, Treatment of HIV infection in Pregnant Women, Mothers, Child. "Linkage, initiation and retention of children in the antiretroviral therapy cascade: an overview." AIDS. 2013 Nov;27 Suppl 2:S207-13. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000095.

Sugandhi N, Rodrigues J, Kim M, Ahmed S, Amzel A, Tolle M, Dziuban EJ, Kellerman SE, Rivadeneira E; Child Survival Working Group of the Interagency Task Team on the Prevention and Treatment of HIV infection in Pregnant Women, Mothers and Children. "HIV-exposed infants: rethinking care for a lifelong condition." AIDS. 2013 Nov;27 Suppl 2:S187-95. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000090.

Amzel A, Toska E, Lovich R, Widyono M, Patel T, Foti C, Dziuban EJ, Phelps BR, Sugandhi N, Mark D, Altschuler J; Child Survival Working Group of the Interagency Task Team on the Prevention and Treatment of HIV-infection in Pregnant Women, Mothers and Children. "Promoting a combination approach to paediatric HIV psychosocial support." AIDS. 2013 Nov;27 Suppl 2:S147-57. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000098.

Bolduc D, Rahdar M, Tu-Sekine B, Sivakumaren SC, Raben D, Amzel LM, Devreotes P, Gabelli SB, Cole P. "Phosphorylation-mediated PTEN conformational closure and deactivation revealed with protein semisynthesis." Elife. 2013 Jul 9;2:e00691. doi: 10.7554/eLife.00691.

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

BCMB Program

Intercampus Program in Molecular Biophysics

Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences

Courses and Syllabi

  • Biochemical and Biophysical Principles

Activities & Honors

Honors

  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2013
  • University Alumni Teaching Award, 1999
  • Teacher of the Year Award, 1994

Professional Activities

  • Academic Council, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Board of Directors, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2012
    Institute for Excellence in Education
  • Course director, Biochemical and Biophysical Principles
  • President, Society of Latin American Biophysicists, 2006
  • Professorial Promotions Committee, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
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