Lien A. Phung

Lien Phung


Entering Class:


Brandeis University
Biochemistry, Biology, Economics majors
B.S., 2013
M.S., 2013

University of Minnesota
Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics Graduate Program
Ph.D., 2020

Honors and Awards:

  • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Predoctoral MD/PhD Fellows, National Institute on Aging, 2017-2022

MSTP Student Governance: 

  • Student Advisory Committee, 2020-2021
  • Student Admissions and Recruitment Committee, 2017-2020 (co-chair 2019-2020)

Thesis Advisor: David Thomas, PhD

Thesis Research

Myosin has been a focus in the muscle field for a long time, yet there are still many major unanswered questions about this motor protein. One emerging focus is on the super-relaxed state (SRX) of myosin. It has been previously reported that the SRX is involved in resting skeletal muscle thermogenesis and in cardiac muscle contractility. Furthermore, there is evidence that estrogen affects these systems as well. I, therefore, am interested in establishing the structural and functional regulations of the SRX myosin with respect to estrogen. Using quantitative epifluorescence microscopy of fluorescent ATP, I examine the age and sex dependence of myosin ATPase activity in mice. I am also designing site-directed spectroscopic probes on myosin and other myofilament proteins in SRX fibers to help determine their changes in protein structures and dynamics in response to estrogen signaling. While SRX myosin has been elusive from recent attempts to characterize it, I hope to make significant progress in the field which will undoubtedly provide more insights to further studies of muscle diseases.

Publications (pubmed)

Phung LA, Foster AD, Miller MS, Lowe DA, Thomas DD. Super-relaxed state of myosin in human skeletal muscle is fiber-type dependent. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2020 Dec 1;319(6):C1158-C1162. PMCID: PMC7792673

Guhathakurta P, Phung LA, Prochniewicz E, Lichtenberger S, Wilson A, Thomas DD. Actin-binding compounds, previously discovered by FRET-based high-throughput screening, differentially affect skeletal and cardiac muscle. J Biol Chem. 2020 Oct 9;295(41):14100-14110. PMCID: PMC7549046

Phung LA, Karvinen SM, Colson BA, Thomas DD, Lowe DA. Age affects myosin relaxation states in skeletal muscle fibers of female but not male mice. PLoS One. 2018 Sep 18;13(9):e0199062.PMCID: PMC6143227

For work prior to joining the MSTP

Kerns SJ, Agafonov RV, Cho YJ, Pontiggia F, Otten R, Pachov DV, Kutter S, Phung LA, Murphy PN, Thai V, Alber T, Hagan MF, Kern D. The energy landscape of adenylate kinase during catalysis. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2015 Feb;22(2):124-31. PMCID: PMC4318763

Hass MA, Liu WM, Agafonov RV, Otten R, Phung LA, Schilder JT, Kern D, Ubbink M. A minor conformation of a lanthanide tag on adenylate kinase characterized by paramagnetic relaxation dispersion NMR spectroscopy. J Biomol NMR. 2015 Feb;61(2):123-36.