Mechanism of Thioredoxin Reductase — a Collaborative Project

There are two main areas of research in my lab. First, we are concerned with the mechanistic enzymology of high molecular weight thioredoxin reductases. The mammalian form of this enzyme contains the rare amino acid selenocysteine. One focus of this project is to understand why the mammalian enzyme requires this rare amino acid, while other homologues from C. elegans and D. melanogaster contain a conventional cysteine residue instead. We use protein engineering and protein semisynthesis techniques to study these enzymes. Semisynthesis allows us to insert a number of non-natural amino acids into the enzyme, as well as produce the mammalian form of the enzyme containing selenocysteine. X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, peptide synthesis, and steady-state kinetics are all techniques emphasized in my laboratory.
A second project involves developing new methods for regioselective disulfide bond formation in peptides and small proteins. A large challenge for peptide chemists is correctly pairing half-cystinyl residues. This is achieved through orthogonal protection/deprotection schemes using multiple protecting groups for the sulfhydryl group of cysteine. These groups are then selectively removed one at a time to form the correct disulfide bond.