Free radicals are reactive molecules that damage cells by degrading proteins and by attacking DNA and are thus a leading cause of aging. Nature, however, has harnessed these radicals to perform exotic chemical syntheses. Our lab uses a combination of biochemical and spectroscopic tools to learn how the enzymes that catalyze these reactions control the chemistry and prevent deleterious side-effects.
We will focus our efforts on interrogating the radical SAM family of enzymes, which employ an iron-sulfur cluster and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) to generate substrate radicals that the protein matrix then guides toward product formation. In investigating these processes, researchers in the Stich group will gain skills in protein expression and anaerobic purification; in manipulating the chemistry via biochemical and genetic means; and in using a variety of spectroscopic techniques including electron paramagnetic resonance.