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MSU Superfund Center

The MSU Superfund Program has had funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Basic Research Program since 1988. The overall goal of this program is to conduct human health-oriented research on risks from exposure to chemicals commonly found in Superfund sites and on remediation technologies to eliminate the potential for exposure to chemicals from those sites.

The pollutants under investigation are a subclass of chemicals belonging to the halogenated aromatic hydrocarbon family that bind and activate the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). These chemicals, which include halogenated dibenzo-p-dioxins, dibenzofurans, and biphenyls, are environmentally persistent, lipid soluble compounds that accumulate in the food chain and lead to human and wildlife exposure. 

A highly integrated, multidisciplinary research program is underway consisting of seven research projects and five supporting core units. The research team of 27 investigators includes faculty at Michigan State University, the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Purdue University, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

MSU Superfund Group

Two major goals are to characterize molecular mechanisms of AhR ligand interactions with specific abiotic and biotic processes and to develop new tools that can be used to estimate more accurately the fate, microbial biotransformation, and human risk associated with AhR ligands contaminating the environment. The major research thrusts are in three areas:

  1. characterizing the diversity of dehalogenases and oxygenase gene sequences in microbial populations indigenous to soils, sediments and groundwater that metabolize AhR ligands;
  2. defining the geochemical parameters governing adsorbtion, bioavailability, and long-term fate of AhR ligands through interactions with clays;
  3. elucidation and computational modeling of the biochemical pathways and their interactions with the ligand-activated AhR, which cause altered responses in the liver and the immune system. 

Two support core facilities assist the biomedical projects, one in the area of bioinformatics and a second in developing dynamic computational models of mammalian biological responses induced by AhR ligands. A third core provides support for the nonbiomedical projects in three areas related to analysis of microbe-derived enzymes: microarray development and enhancement; automated bioinformatics analysis of PCR product sequences and biodegradative gene clusters; and high throughput screening and sequencing. In addition, a Research Translation core communicates important research findings and outcomes emanating from the program to appropriate target audiences in government, industry, and academia.

Follow these links to learn more about each of the MSU Superfund Projects and Support Cores:

Project 1: Characterization of the Pathways Linking Ah Receptor Activation with Altered B Cell Differentiation Using an Integrated Experimental and Computational Modeling Approach

Project 2: Dissecting the Signaling Network for Ah Receptor-mediated B Cell Toxicity

Project 3: Non-Additive Ah Receptor Ligand Interactions

Project 4: Influence of Ah Receptor Ligands on Inflammatory Responses: Consequences for Tissue Injury and Gene Expression

Project 5: A Proteomic Analysis of the AhR Signaling Network

Project 6: Molecular Insight into Polyaromatic Toxicant Degradation by Microbial Communities

Project 7: Geochemical Controls on the Adsorption, Bioavailability, and Long-term Environmental Fate of Dioxins, PCBs, and PAHs

Core A: Administration

Core B: Research Translation

Core C: Computational Modeling of Mammalian Biomolecular Responses

Core D: Biomedical Informatics

Core E: Environmental Molecular Analysis

In addition, the MSU Superfund Project organizes conferences and workshops for the purpose of informing "stakeholders" in our region on the state of the science related to our research and to report our most recent findings. We also seek input from the attendees on future directions for the research.

2007 Conference: Dioxin and Dioxin-Like Compounds

2008 Conference: Dioxin Toxicity: Mechanisms, Models and Potential Health Risks

Project 1: Characterization of the Pathways Linking Ah Receptor Activation with Altered B Cell Differentiation Using an Integrated Experimental and Computational Modeling Approach

Project 2: Dissecting the Signaling Network for Ah Receptor-mediated B-cell Toxicity

Project 3: Non-Additive Ah Receptor Ligand Interactions

Project 4: Influence of Ah Receptor Ligands on Inflammatory Responses: Consequences for Tissue Injury and Gene Expression

Project 5: A Proteomic Analysis of the AhR signaling Network

Project 6: Molecular Insight into Polyaromatic Toxicant Degradation by Microbial Communities

Project 7: Geochemical Controls on the Adsorption, Bioavailability, and Long-term Environmental Fate of Dioxins, PCBs, and PAHs

Core A: Administration

Core B: Research Translation

Core C: Computational Modeling of Mammalian Biomolecular Responses

Core D: Biomedical Informatics

Core E: Environmental Molecular Analysis