Research Biological

Biological Research

Graduate students in the Division meld molecular and structural biology with physical, organic and analytical chemistry to understand the molecular basis of biological processes and human disease. Research in the Biological Division focuses on the structure, stability and function of proteins, membranes, DNA, RNA, macromolecular complexes and viruses, natural product biogenesis, synthetic biology, and genomics.

Students are a constant source of new hypotheses for mechanisms underlying cellular machines like the ribosome, spliceosome, and as well as protein and RNA folding. Students tackle these problems using biochemical methods, chemical biosensor technologies, protein and nucleic acid crystallography, in vitro and in vivo evolution, multi-dimensional NMR spectroscopy, surface chemistry, atomic-force microscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, and high-resolution mass spectrometry.

Doctoral students in our Divsion leave the Department broadly trained for leadership roles in academia and industry.

Recent Research Results

Time-Resolved, Single-Molecule, Correlated Chemical Probing of RNA

Capturing the folding dynamics of large, functionally important RNAs has relied primarily on global measurements of structure or on per-nucleotide chemical probing. These approaches infer, but do not directly measure, through-space structural interactions.

Structural Insights into Endobiotic Reactivation by Human Gut Microbiome-Encoded Sulfatases

Phase II drug metabolism inactivates xenobiotics and endobiotics through the addition of either a glucuronic acid or sulfate moiety prior to excretion, often via the gastrointestinal tract. While the human gut microbial β-glucuronidase enzymes that reactivate glucuronide conjugates in the intestines are becoming well characterized and even controlled by targeted inhibitors, the sulfatases encoded by the human gut microbiome have not been comprehensively examined.

More Than π–π–π Stacking: Contribution of Amide−π and CH−π Interactions to Crotonyllysine Binding by the AF9 YEATS Domain

Lysine crotonylation (Kcr) is a histone post-translational modification that is implicated in numerous epigenetic pathways and diseases.

Representative Publications

Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Time-Resolved, Single-Molecule, Correlated Chemical Probing of RNA Jeffrey E. Ehrhardt and Kevin M. Weeks Journal of the American Chemical Society 2020 142 (44), 18735-18740 DOI: 10.1021/jacs.0c06221

Recurrent mismatch binding by MutS mobile clamps on DNA localizes repair complexes nearby.
Pengyu Hao, Sharonda J. LeBlanc, View ORCID ProfileBrandon C. Case, Timothy C. Elston, Manju M. Hingorani, Dorothy A. Erie, and Keith R. Weninger.
PNAS July 28, 2020 117 (30) 17775-17784

Engineered Reader Proteins for Enhanced Detection of Methylated Lysine on Histones.
Katherine I. Albanese, Mackenzie W. Krone, Christopher J. Petell, Madison M. Parker, Brian D. Strahl, Eric M. Brustad, Marcey L. Waters.
ACS Chem. Biol. 2020, 15, 1, 103-111

Specificity of Nonribosomal Peptide Synthetases in the Biosynthesis of the Pseudomonasvirulence factor.
Gina L. Morgan, Ashley M. Kretsch, Kevin C. Santa Maria, Savannah J. Weeks, and Bo Li.
Biochemistry 2019, 58, 52, 5249-5254

Targeting Regorafenib-Induced Toxicity through Inhibition of Gut Microbial β-Glucuronidases.
Samantha M. Ervin, Ronan P. Hanley, Lauren Lim, William G. Walton, Kenneth H. Pearce, Aadra P. Bhatt, Lindsey I. James, Matthew R. Redinbo.
ACS Chem. Biol. 2019, 14, 12, 2737-2744

On Command Drug Delivery via Cell‐Conveyed Phototherapeutics.
Christina M. Marvin, Song Ding, Rachel E. White, Natalia Orlova, Qunzhao Wang, Emilia M. Zywot, Brianna M. Vickerman, Lauren Harr, Teresa K. Tarrant, Paul A. Dayton, David S. Lawrence.
Small, First published: 28 July 2019

Introduction to Laboratory Safety for Graduate Students: An Active-Learning Endeavor.
David J. Hill, Olivia F. Williams, Danianne P. Mizzy, Therese F. Triumph, Catherine R. Brennan, Dawn C. Mason, David S. Lawrence.
Journal of Chemical Education, Volume: 96, Issue: 4, Pages: 652-659

Controlling and Quantifying Protein Concentration in Escherichia coli.
Shannon L. Speer, Alex J. Guseman, Jon B. Patteson, Brandie M. Ehrmann, Gary J. Pielak.
Protein Science, Volume28, Issue 7, July 2019, Pages 1307-1311