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Francisco Barrera

Contact Info

FacultyBarreraFrancisco Barrera
Assistant Professor, BCMB

Office: Mossman 412,  (865-974-4496)
Lab: Mossman 441B

Lab Website:

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

Alexander G. Karabadzhak, Lisa M. Petti, Francisco N. Barrera, Anne P. B. Edwards, Andrés Moya-Rodríguez, Yury S. Polikanov, J. Alfredo Freites, Douglas J. Tobias, Donald M. Engelman, and Daniel DiMaio. “Two transmembrane dimers of the bovine papillomavirus E5 oncoprotein clamp the PDGF β receptor in an active dimeric conformation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017). PMID: 28808001. PDF | URL

Haden L. Scott, Justin M. Westerfield, and Francisco N. Barrera. “Determination of the Membrane Translocation pK of the pH-Low Insertion Peptide.” Biophysical Journal (2017). PMID: 28834723. PDF | URL

Vanessa P. Nguyen, Daiane S. Alves, Haden L. Scott, Forrest L. Davis, and Francisco N. Barrera. “A Novel Soluble Peptide with pH-Responsive Membrane Insertion.” Biochemistry (2015). PMID: 26497400    *Editor’s Choice. PDF | URL

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 PDF | URL

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 PDF | URL

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 PDF URL

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