Christopher Daley, Ph.D., assistant professor of Chemistry, has received a major research grant from the National Science Foundation, funded through the Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Faculty Research Projects program. The award will provide $306,000 over three years for a project entitled “Applying the synthetic analogue approach and atom-exchange methodology to the study of metal-amidato complexes” and will support significant involvement by USD undergraduate researchers.
The active sites in metalloenzymes are essentially for the enzyme to function. The structure and function of a number metalloenzyme active sites are unknown, poorly defined, and/or are not well understood in terms of how they work. One set of interesting enzymes that have an active site structure that is known but its mechanism of function remains incompletely defined is the nitrile hydratase family of enzymes. Daley’s undergraduate research group, which began synthesizing small model complexes of the active site in 2003, recently synthesized a set of dissymmetric 4- and 5-coordinate analogue complexes of the active site that is the most structurally accurate model reported to date. He and his students will complete the characterization of these models and synthesize a series of other model complexes to obtain a further understanding of the nitrile hydratase enzymes. They will also analyze the reaction between the models and biologically relevant (to the nitrile hydratase enzymes) molecules such as nitriles in order to gain a further understanding of the function and help elucidate the mechanism of their action.