Professor Department: Nutrition and Food Science College: Agriculture and Life Sciences
Office: (979) 845-5697
Dr. Harris studies Copper, the third most abundant trace element. He believes that copper has a vitamin-like impact on living systems. Although known to be a cofactor for some 30 enzymes, copper is poorly understood at the molecular level and details for the pathway that brings copper into the cell and into enzymes are practically non-existent. Menkes disease and Wilson disease represent two conditions where a defect in copper uptake and distribution can be pathogenic. By examining the products of the genes, Dr. Harris has attempted to learn the mechanism by which copper enters cells and is distributed to subcellular organelles and enzymes. The genes encode P-type ATPases that specifically recognize copper. Their presence in cells has brought new focus to the mechanism of heavy metal transport processes.