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Sulfur Chemistry for Biology and the Environment

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This lecture will describe two ways in which our lab has used novel sulfur chemistry to create tools useful for biochemistry and environmental health. In the first part of the presentation, the chemistry of cysteine will be examined, with reference to both natural and synthetic systems. The study of post-translational modification of proteins will be featured as well as general strategy to mutate proteins directly using selective chemistry. These “chemical mutations” bypass the central dogma and allow the construction of proteins bearing glycosylation, phosphorylation, and methylation that are otherwise difficult to access using traditional biochemistry. In the second part of the lecture, applications of new high sulfur content polymers will be presented. By employing readily available elemental sulfur as a starting material, a variety of inexpensive and functional polysulfides can be prepared entirely from industrial waste. Application of these sulfur polymers in mercury remediation and oil spill cleanup will be discussed. We will also detail our efforts to address the widespread impact of mercury pollution due to artisanal gold mining. This practice compromises the health of 15 million miners involved in this activity—the largest source of mercury emissions on the planet.

Chalker, J.M.; Lercher, L.; Rose, N.R.; Schofield, C.J.; Davis, B.G. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2012, 51, 1835-1839.

Wright, T. H.; Bower, B. J.; Chalker, J. M.; Bernardes, G. J. L.; Wiewiora, R.; Ng, W.-L.; Raj, R.; Faulkner, S.; Vallée M. R. J.; Phanumartwiwath, A.; Coleman, O. D.; Thézénas, M.-L.; Khan, M.; Galan, S. R. G.; Lercher, L.; Schombs, M. W.; Gerstberger, S.; Palm-Espling, M. E.; Baldwin, A. J.; Kessler, B. M.; Claridge, T. D. W.; Mohammed, S.; Davis B. G. Science 2016, 2016, 354, aag1465. DOI : 10.1126/science.aag1465

Crockett, M. P.; Evans, A. M.; Worthington, M. J. H.; Albuquerque, I. S.; Slattery, A. D.; Gibson, C. T.; Campbell, J. A.; Lewis, D.A.; Bernardes, G. J. L.; Chalker, J. M. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2016, 55, 1714-1718.

Worthington, M. J. H.; Kucera, R. L.; Chalker, J. M. Green Chem. 2017, 19, 2748-2761.

This talk is part of the Biological Chemistry Research Interest Group series.

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