Christina L. Rush Ph.D. Department Head


Extremophiles from the Berkeley Pit

The Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana is a man-made extreme environment resulting from hard rock mining over thirty years. In the 1980’s the Berkeley Pit began filling with water from underground sources, rainfall and snow runoff. The toxic combination of minerals in the abandoned mining pit has polluted the water to create a highly unfavorable environment in which only extremophile organisms can survive. One such organism that has been isolated from the Berkeley Pit is a yeast-like organism named Hansenula anomala, (Pichia anomala and also referred to as Wickerhamomyces anomalus). Our experiments thus far have included the growth of the organism in various metal containing medias. We have found in our initial growth studies that H. anomala is metal specific.

Novel model of study for Hantavirus

Hantavirus is a virus found in Montana spread by the feces of mice and other rodents. Pulmonary hantavirus is extremely dangerous with a high mortality rate. Current methods to study the virus include using biosafety level 4 suits and laboratories. Since few of these exist, the research on this dangerous virus is slow. We are proposing a method of study that would reduce the biosafety to a level 2. We are carrying out this research with virus-like particles in situ. If we are successful in demonstrating our model to have the same immune reactions as with whole virus, research would be able to move forward in many more labs much more quickly.


1.Friedlander MC., VanSickle M, Rush CL. Hanensula anomala isolated from the Berkeley Pit is a metal specific extremophile. 2016. J micro. Submitted.

2.Schimpl M, Rush CL ,Recklies AD, van Aalten DMF. Human YKL-39 is a pseudo-chitinase with retained chitooligosaccharide-binding properties. 2012. Biochem. J. 446;149-157.

3.Schttelkopf AW, Andersen OA, Rao FV, Allwood M, Rush CL, Eggleston IM, van Aalten DMF. 2010. Bisdionin C “ a rationally designed, nanomolar inhibitor of family 18 chitinases. 2011. ASC Medicinal Chemistry Letters. 2;428-432.

4.Rush CL, Schttelkopf AW, Hurtado-Guerrero R, Blair DE, Ibrahim A.F.M, Desvergnes S, 3. Eggleston IM, van Aalten DMF. 2010. Natural product-guided discovery of a fungal chitinase inhibitor. 2010. Chem. Biol. 17(12):1275-81.

5. Izard T, Evans G, Borgon RA, Rush CL, Bricogne G, Bois PR. 2004. Vinculin activation by talin through helical bundle conversion. Nature. 427(6970):171.

6. Rush CL, Izard T. 2004. Rhombohedral crystals of the human vinculin head domain in complex with a vinculin-binding site of talin.  Acta Crystallogr D Biol Crystallogr. 60(Pt 5):945-7.

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