Research in the Chakraborty group focuses on designing proteins, peptides, foldamers and DNA as ligands to coordinate and encapsulate metals, metal complexes and noble metal nanoclusters within their chiral templates. Our aim is to employ these artificial entities for biocatalysis, therapeutics and energy applications.
Students trained in our group will have strong foundations in inorganic chemistry, protein/peptide chemistry, nanoclusters and a variety of analytical methods including chromatography, mass spectrometry, UV-vis, CD, NMR, X-ray crystallography and electrochemistry.
Inspired by nature, we are designing stable protein and foldamer-based architectures that can self-assemble and host metals and metal complexes for a variety of functions. These include functions of natural metalloenzymes as well as those unprecedented in nature.
A high concentration of Cu, Zn and Fe is found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease. The metals are proposed to promote the self-assembly of the Aβ peptides into senile plaques and contribute to oxidative stress. Very recent structural analysis of pure Aβ preparations have revealed dimeric β-helix bundles with high degree of noncovalent interactions between each bundle that contributes to the exceptional stability and chemical inertness of the plaques. We are designing bi-functional peptides that can not only chelate the metals from Aβ aggregates but also compete for the non-covalent interactions at the dimer interface with an objective to disintegrate the aggregates.
Few-atom metal nanoclusters (~1-2 nm) are showing promising applications in energy and catalysis science. Our goal is to synthesize DNA-hosted gold nanoclusters and employ them as conduits of electron transfer (ET) in enzymatic fuel cells, in particular for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). Our primary focus is to rationally design DNA sequences that can lead to nanoclusters of various sizes with unique electrochemical properties and assemble them with the fuel cell enzymes for ORR. In addition, we are exploring the use of these nanoclusters as catalysts for chemical transformations.