We are interested in the chemical mechanisms of enzyme-catalyzed reactions. A number of experimental methods are used to investigate the mechanisms including substrate-activity assays, steady and pre-steady state kinetic studies, kinetic isotope effects, and structural analysis of target enzymes. In addition we collaborate with members of the MTSU Departments of Biology and Mathematics to develop new methods to predict the structure of our target enzymes with particular emphasis on identifying important active site residues.
The enzymes we study, nucleoside hydrolases, catalyze the hydrolysis of nucleosides as part of their breakdown in the salvage of the nucleobases.
While these enzymes have been extensively studied in parasitic protozoans, relatively little is known about these enzymes in plants. As a first step we are currently determining the structure and transition state of nucleoside hydrolases isolated from a number of sources including the plants yellow lupin, Alaska pea, and corn. Similar studies will be carried out on enzymes isolated from weeds or invasive plants such kudzu. The ultimate goal is to exploit these differences in the design of highly specific and environmentally friendly herbicides.
Students in this laboratory receive training in a variety of areas including enzymology, mathematical modeling of protein structure, and organic synthesis.