Research in the Stevenson Lab lies at the interface of biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry, and chemical biology. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are a component of the innate immune system and represent one of the oldest forms of protection against pathogens like bacteria and fungi. Most AMPs have short (3-100 amino acids), cationic primary sequences and a lack of secondary structure. They act by disrupting bacterial membranes, increasing the toxic environment within the cell, and/or sequestering nutritional metals like Cu(II) and Zn(II). We hypothesize that metals modulate the properties of AMPs by altering their structure and biochemistry. Our research will be crucial for researchers to rationally design new innovative therapeutics based on efficient metal-AMP interactions for treatment of bacterial infections because traditional antibiotics are beginning to fail. We are tackling metal-AMP interactions by 1) elucidating the structural changes and binding thermodynamics of AMPs to their native metal partners; 2) determining how binding cooperativity and metal competition affect AMPs; and, 3) assessing which bioavailable metals interact with AMPs that have common metal-binding motifs.

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