Increasingly, chemistry is having an impact in other fields, such as materials science and biology. Our research program focuses on exploiting organic and organometallic chemistry to solve problems in these fields.
The primary focus of our research involves using photoactivatable sources of organic radicals to modify biomolecules to achieve the following goals:
Cleaving DNA, since this is the mode of action of the enediyne anticancer antibiotics (including neocarzinostatin, which is used to treat liver cancer)
Footprinting DNA to determine its structure in chromatin, because a molecular-level structural understanding of chromatin and its reactivity may lead to more efficient and specific chemotherapeutics whose mode of action involves interaction with DNA, histones, or their higher order assemblies
Functionalizing protein side chains under physiological conditions so that we can label any desired protein to investigate its role in cellular processes or to modulate its biological activity
Modifying sugars on glycoproteins to manipulate their biological activities, since the sugar portions of glycoproteins are important in processes including cellular adhesion and communication, the immune response, cancer metastasis, and bacterial and viral infection
In each of these areas, organic radicals generated from CpMLnR complexes are ideal for a number of reasons: their production is triggerable, tunable, and can be targeted; and the complexes are stable, readily available, and easily functionalized with biomolecular recognition elements. Furthermore, the use of light activation provides spatiotemporal control, which will be vital to eventual applications in vivo. The stoichiometic control provided by the photochemical generation of the radical species from the metal complex allows regulation over the number of biomolecular radicals formed, increasing the yield of the desired modified biomolecules.
In addition, a few students in the group are working in the following areas:
These areas represent our fascination with the interactions of "small" and "big" molecules (and the resulting effects, including biological activity) and with the development of new "big" molecules with interesting properties.