Special Biological Chemistry Seminar, Vinayak Argarwal, The University of California San Diego

January 11, 2016 - 01:00 PM - 02:00 PM

Carolyn Hoff Lynch Room

For inquiries contact Camille Pride at campride@sas.upenn.edu


Title: Understanding natural product biosynthetic routes for polybrominated pollutants and toxins in the marine environment



The marine environment provides a plenitude of naturally produced organic pollutants and toxins. Of these, polybrominated marine natural products, such as endocrine disrupting polybrominated diphenyl ethers, dioxins, and pyrroles, biomagnify in the marine food web and are available to be passed onto humans via seafood. Despite their recognized toxic potential, routes for the production of these polybrominated molecules in the marine metabolome have not been elucidated. This in turn hinders the development of diagnostic tools to discover and query the biosynthetic potential of other natural sources that introduce these polybrominated pollutants into the environment.

The research presented in this seminar takes a fresh look at these molecules from a biochemists’ perspective, and uses an interdisciplinary (meta)genome mining direction to characterize the biosynthetic routes of polybrominated pollutants and toxins. Based on a 'predictive retrobiosynthetic' approach, biosynthetic hypotheses are advanced that are then rigorously tested using a combination of genetic and biochemical experiments. Complemented by mass spectrometry and other analytical techniques, data generated during the course of this study will be used to drive the discovery of under-appreciated additional natural sources that are contributing to the human and environmental exposure to these naturally produced polybrominated pollutants. Furthermore, the research design recognizes and seeks to exploit the numerous opportunities that will present themselves for the advancement of halogenation enzymology and novel marine biochemistry.

Department of Chemistry

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