Biology-Chemistry Colloquium: Professor Lynette Cegelski
About the Talk
"Discovery and New Chemistry at the Bacterial Cell Surface"
The bacterial cell wall is essential to cell survival and is a major target of antibiotics. Beyond the cell surface, bacteria assemble remarkable architectures to enmesh cells during the formation of biofilm communities implicated in serious and difficult-to-treat infections. Our research program is inspired by the challenge and importance of elucidating chemical structure and function in these complex systems. We strive to transform our discoveries into therapeutic strategies and have introduced new antibacterial compounds to target biofilm-associated bacteria. We also have developed new approaches using whole-cell and macromolecular solid-state NMR in order to reveal how the biological functions of cell walls and biofilms depend on their chemical composition and architecture. Solid-state NMR was uniquely enabling in our discovery of a chemically modified cellulose produced by E. coli – phosphoethanolamine cellulose – and in our identification of the molecular basis for its assembly. Cellulose is the most abundant biomolecule on Earth and this discovery presented the first experimental determination of a chemically modified cellulose produced in nature. I will present our recent results that reveal new avenues for antibacterial drug discovery and the power of solid-state NMR spectroscopy as a unique discovery tool tightly coupled with other biophysical and biochemical tools to uncover underlying chemistry in heterogeneous and insoluble assemblies.