Nadine Samara, PhD

Stadtman Investigator

Structural Biochemistry Unit


Building 30, Room 426
30 Convent Dr. MSC 4370
Bethesda MD 20892


Research Topics

The overall aim of our group is to characterize the O-glycosyltransferases that synthesize O-glycans or polysaccharides that influence host-microbe interactions. In higher eukaryotes, the mucus that coats the epithelium and protects underlying tissue from damage and infection while providing an optimal environment for commensal microbes obtains its protective properties from densely O-glycosylated mucin proteins. The large family of isoenzymes that initiate mucin-type O-glycosylation by transferring O-GalNAc to Thr/Ser residues are the polypeptide N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferases (GalNAc-Ts). These enzymes are critical for normal development, and their dysfunction is associated with developmental diseases, neurological disorders, and cancer. However, we are only beginning to understand how GalNAc-Ts recognize and modify their substrates. Similarly, microbes synthesize protective polysaccharide, glycoprotein, and glycolipid structures such as capsular polysaccharide (CPS) that are virulence factors, and the machinery responsible for the synthesis of these structures are potential anti-microbial targets. We primarily use biochemical and structural methods, including X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy, to obtain atomic level details on how O-glycosyltransferases recognize, bind to, and modify their substrates.


Dr. Nadine Samara was born in New York City and has lived in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Upon graduating from the American University of Beirut with a BS in Chemistry, she returned to the United States and obtained a Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She then started her postdoctoral research as an NIGMS-PRAT Fellow at NIDDK/NIH. In 2015, Dr. Samara transitioned to a Staff Scientist Position at NIDCR/NIH, where she is now an Earl Stadtman Investigator and Chief of the Structural Biochemistry Unit. As a Distinguished Scholar at NIH, Dr. Samara will focus on building an inclusive and diverse environment within the lab and institute.

Selected Publications

  1. Fernandez AJ, Daniel EJP, Mahajan SP, Gray JJ, Gerken TA, Tabak LA, Samara NL. The structure of the colorectal cancer-associated enzyme GalNAc-T12 reveals how nonconserved residues dictate its function. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019;116(41):20404-20410.
  2. May C, Ji S, Syed ZA, Revoredo L, Paul Daniel EJ, Gerken TA, Tabak LA, Samara NL, Ten Hagen KG. Differential splicing of the lectin domain of an O-glycosyltransferase modulates both peptide and glycopeptide preferences. J Biol Chem. 2020;295(35):12525-12536.
  3. Ji S, Samara NL, Revoredo L, Zhang L, Tran DT, Muirhead K, Tabak LA, Ten Hagen KG. A molecular switch orchestrates enzyme specificity and secretory granule morphology. Nat Commun. 2018;9(1):3508.
  4. Zhang L, Mann M, Syed ZA, Reynolds HM, Tian E, Samara NL, Zeldin DC, Tabak LA, Ten Hagen KG. Furin cleavage of the SARS-CoV-2 spike is modulated by O-glycosylation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021;118(47).
  5. Verzijl CRC, Oldoni F, Loaiza N, Wolters JC, Rimbert A, Tian E, Yang W, Struik D, Smit M, Kloosterhuis NJ, Fernandez AJ, Samara NL, Ten Hagen KG, Dalal K, Chernish A, McCluggage P, Tabak LA, Jonker JW, Kuivenhoven JA. A novel role for GalNAc-T2 dependent glycosylation in energy homeostasis. Mol Metab. 2022;60:101472.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Friday, March 29, 2024