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Chemistry Seminar Series

Weekly: ILC 118 – 1:30 pm to 2:20 pm

Friday, February 23, 2018

Kynna Bertagnolli, Cornell Lab, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Boise State University
Title: “Proteomic Analysis of MTN Deficiency in Enterohemorrhagic E. coli O157:H7”


The bacterial enzyme 5’-methylthioadenosine/S-adenosylhomocysteine nucleosidase (MTN) is essential for the production of autoinducers, and required to salvage methionine and purine constituents from S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM) dependent reactions. MTN represents a potentially valuable target for the development of novel antibiotics that would attenuate virulence by interrupting quorum sensing and decreasing metabolic fitness. To further study the impact of MTN activity on cellular processes, the proteomic profiles of enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) strain O157:H7 wild type (WT) and MTN knock-out (KO) cells were analyzed using shot-gun proteomic approach following peptide labeling and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. The results indicate that loss of MTN activity causes numerous changes in the expression of metabolic proteins. The MTN KO strain showed altered expression levels of enzymes responsible for methionine biosynthesis, spermidine biosynthesis, and radical SAM reactions that lead to the synthesis of vitamins (thiamine, lipoate, biotin). The decrease in vitamin synthesis may explain the decreases in activity of pathways involved in energy metabolism in the KO strain. Ultimately, the results suggest that antibiotics targeting MTN activity may function by widespread metabolic interruption. The impact of an MTN KO on the regulation of SAM-dependent methyltransferases, additional radical SAM enzyme activity, and polyamine dependent cellular activities will be explored in future research. 

Vannessa Campfield, McDougal Lab, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Boise State University
Title: “Isolation, Purification and Characterization of Novel Steroidal Alkaloids from Veratrum californicum


Cyclopamine and other steroidal alkaloids found in Veratrum californicum are known teratogens which inhibit the Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling pathway. In over 20 types of cancer, this pathway is active; allowing the overproduction of cancerous cells and tumor growth. Currently, there are only a small number of medications derived from cyclopamine which serve to inhibit the pathway, thus inhibiting tumor growth in skin and neck cancers. Further examination and analysis of alkaloid extractions has confirmed various abundancies of cyclopamine and other alkaloids in different sections of the Veratrum californicum plant; with the highest cyclopamine abundancy residing in the root and rhizome section. Through the use of Shh Light II cells, bioactivity is suppressed the greatest by the root and rhizome extracts compared to bioactivities of the stem or leaf portions of the plant. Careful analysis of the root and rhizome extract by High Pressure Liquid Chromatography and MS has verified the presence of uncharacterized, novel compounds. This project concentrates on extracting, isolating and characterizing these novel compounds and other alkaloids present in the root and rhizome section of Veratrum californicum. Bioactivity of this pathway will also be tested for any synergistic effects caused by numerous combinations of novel compounds with cyclopamine that inhibits the Shh signaling pathway.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Andy Hansen, Colson Lab, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Boise State University
Title: “Non-Classical Cluster Synthesis: Isocyanide-Facilitated Chain Extension of Fe2(µ-PPh2)2(CO)6 Complexes”


Transition metal carbonyl clusters (MCC’s) have been studied for decades as potential catalytic materials or as functional components in molecular electronics. Synthetic methods for producing MCC’s have historically focused on so-called “classical” clusters containing at least three transition metal nuclei participating in extensive metal-metal bonding networks. We are interested in exploring the synthesis and characterization of polynuclear transition metal complexes having non-classical architectures. An approach to synthesizing a new, multinuclear organometallic iron phosphide cluster via simple molecular precursors has been developed. The synthesis and structural characterization of a chain extended dimer based on the dinuclear Fe2(µ-PPh2)2(CO)6 complex will be presented.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Melissa Roberts, Graduate Student, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Boise State University
Title: “Hot to Trot: Determination of the Organic Composition of Thermally Altered Meteorites”


It is widely believed that organic compounds were delivered to the early (and prebiotic) Earth via extraterrestrial materials such as meteorites. This research is designed to investigate several thermally altered carbonaceous chondrites and ureilites for soluble organic compounds including nitrogen heterocycles and aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons. Recent experimental work suggested that Fischer Tropsch-type (FTT) synthesis may have been responsible for amino acids detected in thermally altered carbonaceous chondrites and ureilites. In addition, both n-alkanes and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) should be synthesized from FTT synthesis and they should be detectable (if amino acids can survive these conditions). Furthermore, recent theoretical work determined that FTT synthesis should be the dominant source of nucleobases within model planetesimals. Thus, these compounds can serve as indicators of FTT synthesis. In addition, isoprenoid hydrocarbons such as pristine and phytane can serve as indicators of terrestrial contamination, which can help gauge the level of terrestrial contamination of these Antarctic-recovered meteorites. If nucleobases are present in thermally altered meteorites, then they will provide evidence of how common these species are in extraterrestrial material and whether they can survive harsh conditions of thermal metamorphism. This research will help answer fundamental questions regarding the diversity and abundance of organic compounds and their likely origin in in extraterrestrial small bodies.

Patrick Schwartz, Graduate Student, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Boise State University
Title: “A Piece of the Cosmic Puzzle: Correlation Between Reflectance IR and Organic Abundance & Distribution”


My proposed research project aims to correlate the diversity and abundance of soluble organic compounds in a chondrite sample, obtained through ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry, with reflectance IR data of the same sample. We will analyze ~70 carbonaceous chondrites, primarily the CM group with varying degrees of aqueous alteration, since it has been determined from preliminary, Earth-based spectra that Bennu is most similar to CM chondrites. If a diagnostic relationship between characteristic IR spectra of carbonaceous chondrites and their resulting molecular diversity and abundance exists, these data could be extrapolated to assist in understanding the organic composition of their parent bodies.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Savannah Irving, Graduate Student, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Boise State University
Title: “The Development of Continuous Head-to-Tail Depolymerizable Polymers”

Ben Lew, Graduate Student, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Boise State University
Title: “Spectroscopic and Electrochemical Investigations of Tethered Organometallic Cluster Electrophores”

Friday, January 26, 2018

Dr. Lisa Warner, Assistant Research Professor, Biomolecular Research Center, Boise State University
Title: “From the periplasmic space to the extracellular matrix: Using NMR to investigate the structure and
dynamics of biomolecules.”


The overarching theme of my research interests is to understand how the structures and dynamics of biomolecules determines their biological functions. In particular, my studies have focused on the intramolecular interactions within multidomain proteins and intermolecular interactions within large biomolecular complexes. My solution NMR work on the E. coli beta-barrel assembly machine (BAM) demonstrated how the structure and dynamics of the periplasmic domains within BAM proteins enables the BAM to chaperone the folding and insertion of outer-membrane proteins. In a separate study, by combining solution NMR with single molecule FRET, we identified a dynamic conformational shift in the U2AF65 heterodimer that is critical for the recognition of the 3’ splice site of pre-mRNA. Collectively, these studies faced technical challenges that required innovative advancements in high field NMR and integrated structural biology. My future research will continue to apply integrated structural biology methods to investigate the structure and dynamics of protein/RNA complexes that contribute to mRNA trafficking and metabolism.

Warner, L.R., Gatzeva-Topalova, P.Z., Doerner, P.A., Pardi, A., Sousa, M.C. (2017) Flexibility in the Periplasmic Domain of BamA Is Important for Function. Structure 25, 94–106.

Voith von Voithenberg, L., Sanchez, C., Kang, H-S., Madl, T., Zanier, K., Bart, A., Warner, L.R., Sattler, M., Lamb, D.C. (2016) “Recognition of the 3’splice site RNA by the U2AF heterodimer involves a dynamic population shift” PNAS, 113, E7169–E7175.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Eric Bastian, Dairy West
Title: “Dairy Industry in Idaho: Potential For Chemistry Majors”


A short discussion that will include an example of biochemistry applied to milk and additional discussion about the potential for chemistry majors to find employment in Idaho’s dairy industry.


Eric D. Bastian was born in central Utah and reared on a dairy farm. He obtained his education at Utah State University with a BS degree in Dairy Science, and MS and Ph. D. (1989) degrees in Nutrition and Food Sciences. He spent one year (1989-1990) as a research fellow with the Danish Government Research Institute for the Dairy Industry in Hillerod, Denmark.

In 1992, Eric accepted a faculty position at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition and for six years he led a research team focused on milk protein and enzyme chemistry, process cheese functionality, and milk protein fractionation. In 1998, he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. In the same year, he accepted a position with Avonmore West (now Glanbia) as Director of Research & Development (R&D) and relocated to Twin Falls, Idaho.

Eric was promoted to Vice President of R & D for Glanbia Nutritionals in 2006 and he began leading the cheese R&D for Glanbia Foods in 2013 (both divisions were part of Glanbia PLC). In 2015, Eric was promoted to Senior Vice President of Innovation. During his time at Glanbia Nutritionals, he developed a research team, starting with 5 people and building to a team of 80.

In July of 2016, Eric joined Dairy West as Vice President of Industry Relations.

Eric is married with five children and lives in Twin Falls, Idaho. He enjoys many outdoor activities including snow and water skiing, gardening, camping and fishing. He also likes to read historical and classical literature.