Chemistry-Biology Interface Seminar: Professor Bo Li, UNC Chapel Hill (Host: Chaitan Khosla)
"Mighty chemistry of bacterial small molecules"
About the Seminar
Bacteria live a rich metabolic life. They synthesize a remarkable array of small molecules that exhibit intriguing chemical structures and potent biological activities. These molecules are widely used as life-saving medicine and tools to study biology. I will discuss our efforts to decipher the chemistry, mode of action and biosynthesis of small molecules possessing unique structures and potent antimicrobial activity. For example, we have identified a new mode of action for the disulfide-containing, broad-spectrum antibiotic holomycin involving inhibition of metalloenzyme activity via metal-ion chelation. We are exploring this mechanism to control multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. I will also discuss the biosynthesis of antimicrobial nonproteinogenic amino acids.
About the Speaker
Bo Li earned her B.S. in biological sciences from Beijing University in 2004 and her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009. As a graduate student, she worked with Prof. Wilfred van der Donk, studying the enzymatic transformations in the biosynthesis of lanthionine-containing peptides. She conducted postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Prof. Christopher T. Walsh at Harvard Medical School as a Jane Coffin Childs Fellow, using chemical and microbial genetic tools to characterize the biosynthesis and mode of action of antibiotics. Bo Li joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013. Li’s group integrates chemistry and bacterial genomics to identify bioactive small molecules produced by microbes and unravels the mechanisms by which these small molecules target cellular processes. She has received a National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Award, a Rita Allen Foundation Scholars Award, a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering, a National Science Foundation CAREER award, and a National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award.