Chemistry Department Seminar: Leah Witus

30 September 2019
Leah Witus

Leah Witus, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Macalester College, presents “Catalytic peptides and peptidomimetics by design and discovery” on Friday, October 4, 2019 at 3:30 p.m. in Anderson Hall 329.

Proteins are nature’s molecular machines, carrying out many of the functions of a cell. Using proteins outside of their natural context is a powerful way to harness their unique capabilities to solve unmet challenges in medicine, catalysis, and environmental remediation. However, protein design, stability, and production present limitations to their use in these applications; therefore, there is interest in developing protein-mimetic analogues with enhanced stability and synthetic accessibility.

Peptides and peptidomimetics are an appealing class of enzyme-mimics, as they retain some of the complexity of a full-size protein, yet have enhanced robustness and are synthetically accessible. The Witus lab investigates catalytic peptides and peptidomimetics focusing on aldolase and esterase mimics.

Although short oligomers lack the intricate three-dimensional environment of a folded protein, we and others have found that designing sequences that induce secondary structure conformations can be conducive to catalysis. In addition to studying rationally designed sequences, we are developing a colorimetric assay based on competitive dye displacement to aid the rapid evaluation of catalytic activity and enable the discovery of new catalytic sequences from large libraries.

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