Natural Science Faculty and Alumni and Fellow Scientists Publish Research on Box Jellyfish Venom

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Hawai‘i Pacific University faculty Gideon Berger, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry, and David Horgen, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry, and alumni Kelly Galbraith Kawabata, Ph.D. (B.S. Biochemistry ‘11), and Justin Reinicke, M.S. (Marine Science ‘13, B.S. Biochemistry and Marine Biology, Minor in Oceanography), co-authored a paper published in the journal Molecules.

The HPU researchers collaborated with scientists at the University of Hawai‘i and institutions in Japan on a study focusing on the venom from box jellyfish in Hawai‘i, which regularly come inshore on Oahu’s southern beaches and cause painful stings. The study discovered new protein-like molecules in the venom of the box jellyfish from Hawai‘i and found these new substances in many related animals like other jellyfish, anemones, and corals. The research raised the fascinating question of the role of these widely distributed compounds in these poisonous animals. 

The paper, “Isolation, Structure Determination, and Synthesis of Cyclic Tetraglutamic Acids from Box Jellyfish Species Alatina alata and Chironex yamaguchii,” is included in Molecules’ Special Issue entitled Bioactive Marine Natural Products: Towards Understanding of the Physiology and Ecology of Marine Life.   In addition to Horgen and Berger, the other corresponding authors are Angel Yanagihara, Ph.D., from the University of Hawai‘i, and Hiroshi Nagai, Ph.D., from Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

The research detailed in this paper is in part work  Reinicke completed for his HPU master’s thesis.  Reinicke works for the University of Hawai‘i-Hilo College of Pharmacy, managing its high-tech instrumentation facility.  Kawabata earned her Ph.D. at the University of Kyoto and is a postdoctoral researcher at DZNE, the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. 

Berger is a contributor to HPU’s Shared Instrumentation Facility, led by  Horgen. The National Institute of Health has funded the facility since 2002, and the biomedical research laboratories provide undergraduate and graduate student research opportunities and support instructional lab courses.