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Francisco Barrera

Contact Info

FacultyBarreraFrancisco Barrera
Assistant Professor

Office : WLS, F431A: (865-974-4496)

Lab: WLS, E414: (865-974-4516)



Ph.D. Universidad Miguel Hernández de Elche (Spain)

Research Statement

The plasma membrane constitutes the barrier that delineates communication between cells and their environment. As a consequence, any cell-based therapy entails interaction with membrane components. In fact, half of the currently used drugs target membrane proteins, primarily receptors. The functional relevance of the membrane is also reflected by the fact that a quarter of all proteins coded by the genome are embedded in the lipid bilayer, while many others bind peripherally. The Barrera laboratory uses biophysical, biochemical, molecular biology, cell biology and computational tools to investigate the interplay between proteins and lipids in systems of biomedical relevance.

Our immediate aims are to:

  1. Develop new cancer therapies employing tumor-targeting peptides. We will address this by pursuing two aims:
    • Use of the pHLIP peptide to translocate antisense molecules that inhibit oncogenic microRNAs.
    • Develop new peptides able to knockdown the ErbB2 receptor, involved in cancer progression.
  2. Understand the role played by the viral lipid envelope in HIV-1 maturation.
  3. Obtain structural insights about the formation of transmembrane helical bundles by performing molecular dynamics simulation.


Selected Publications

Alam, Shahrina, Daiane Santana Alves, Stuart A. Whitehead, Andrew Michael Bayer, Christopher D. McNitt, Vladimir V. Popik, Francisco Nicolas Barrera, and Michael D. Best. “A Clickable and Photocleavable Lipid Analog for Cell Membrane Delivery and Release.” Bioconjugate chemistry (2015). PMID: 25927978

Scott, Haden L., Vanessa P. Nguyen, Daiane S. Alves, Forrest L. Davis, Kristen R. Booth, Jordan Bryner, and Francisco N. Barrera. “The Negative Charge of the Membrane Has Opposite Effects on the Membrane Entry and Exit of pH-Low Insertion Peptide.” Biochemistry 54, no. 9 (2015): 1709-1712. PMID:25692747

Cheng, Christopher, Raman Bahal, Imran Babar, Zachary Pincus, Francisco Barrera, Connie Liu, Alexander Svoronos, Demetrios Braddock, Peter Glazer, Donald Engelman, W. Saltzman, and Frank Slack. “MicroRNA Silencing for Cancer Therapy Targeted to the Tumour Microenvironment.” Nature 518.7537 (2014): 107-10. PMID:25409146

Barrera FN, Fendos J, Engelman DM. Membrane physical properties influence transmembrane helix formation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA2012; 109: 14422-7. PMID: 22908237

Barrera FN, Weerakkody D, Anderson M, Andreev OA, Reshetnyak YK, Engelman DM. Roles of carboxyl groups in the transmembrane insertion of peptides. J Mol Biol.2011;413:359-71. PMID: 21888917

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