Research in our lab is focused on chemical biology and involves taking a chemical approach to cell biology. We start with problems that are of interest from a biological standpoint and use a combination of chemical and cellular techniques to understand them. Working at the interface of chemistry and biology, we seek to answer questions that are hard to address with traditional biological approaches. We are currently interested in problems relevant to wound healing, cancer and embryonic development.

Projects in our lab include:

  1. Organic chemistry to synthesize bioactive small molecules.
  2. Identification, manipulation and exploitation of new compounds that affect cell migration, and characterization of the molecular targets of these compounds.
  3. Molecular mechanism of action of antimigratory compounds; protein-small molecule interactions.
  4. Biochemical and cellular analysis of signaling pathways and function of specific proteins involved in cell motility.
  5. Mechanism underlying how groups of cells collectively generate force to drive movement of epithelial cell sheets.

The projects in our lab involve methods of protein biochemistry, cell biology and organic synthesis to make and modify bioactive small molecules. A major focus is screening for small molecules with a desired biological effect and using these molecules as "probes" for use in affinity-based discovery, isolation and characterization of the cellular target. This approach allows us to dissect biological and biochemical pathways without a bias toward already characterized proteins. It is analogous to the genetic approach but possesses the added advantage that the small molecule or drug not only allows for the implication of a protein target in a pathway but also can serve as a direct mechanistic probe for the target's function. In other words, once we have the small molecule's target in hand, we can use the small molecule and synthetic variants of it to understand the biochemistry of the target.

Such approaches are especially important in an era when whole genome sequences are known but understanding of function lags well behind. Chemistry provides an amazing battery of tools for advancing knowledge of biological function. We wish to further explore and define the areas of overlap between chemistry and biology.


© 2015 Gabriel Fenteany