BioPACIFIC MIP Research: SET 1 - Bioderived Materials
What is your research focus?
Noncanonical amino acids (ncAAs) are important precursors and building blocks to natural products and pharmaceuticals. They are also important bio-derived functional monomers that can be incorporated into polymer materials. Structurally complex noncanonical amino acids are challenging to synthesize owing to their multiple stereocenters, reactive functional groups. Using bio-based methods, such as enzymatic reactions to access ncAAs is of great interest, not only because enzyme biocatalyst can control stereoselectivity but also avoid extensive use of protection groups. Our lab aimed to discover new PLP-dependent enzymes from natural product biosynthetic pathways and repurpose these biocatalysts to catalyze the synthesis of noncanonical amino acids. So far, I have uncovered a PLP-dependent enzyme LolT, which is shown to catalyze stereoselective intramolecular cyclization on imine substrates to yield a variety of cyclic amino acid acids. I aim to understand the molecular mechanism governing this novel Mannich-like reaction catalyzed by LolT. Our structural and mechanistic understanding of LolT will facilitate future protein engineering effort and genome mining of new C-C bond forming PLP-dependent enzymes for biocatalytic synthesis of noncanonical amino acids.
What excites you about NSF BioPACIFIC MIP?
I am excited about the opportunity in becoming a BioPACIFIC MIP Fellow. I am interested in exploring the resources provided by BioPACIFIC MIP for my research. For example, I would like to use the newly-acquired preparative LC-MS to accelerate product isolation for my biocatalytic reactions. I am also interested in collaborating with material scientists to maximize the utility of bio-derived functional monomer products prepared in our lab. Overall, I am very excited to collaborate with other faculty.