School Seminar: Dr Tristian de Rond, University of Auckland
Friday, 13 October 11:00am – 12:00pm
This seminar will be delivered in Chemistry Lecture Theatre 2
Speaker: Dr Tristian de Rond, University of Auckland
Host: Dr Constance Bailey
Title: Expanding the biocatalytic toolbox for the sustainable production of chemical diversity . What can natural product biosynthesis teach us, and what can we teach it?
Abstract: Billions of years of evolution has provided immense genetic – and hence, biochemical – diversity, which is ripe to be explored for useful enzymatic transformations. I plan to describe projects in which we either aim to elucidate the biosynthetic pathway of know natural products, or explore “metabolic dark matter” through genome mining to discover entirely new natural products and their biosynthetic machinery. In the former category are studies on the biosynthetic origins of terpenoids produced by marine invertebrates, some of which are highly bioactive but whose limited supply impedes their full biomedical potential. This question is further complicated by the fact that these organisms are known to engage in complex symbioses which have been proposed to be the true producers of the holobiont’s natural product repertoire. In the latter category is a project where we deliberately avoid the usual genome mining approach of searching for biosynthetic gene clusters containing homologs of known core biosynthetic genes of established classes of natural products, and instead developed a contrasting genome mining approach for the discovery of biochemical transformations through the analysis of co-occurring enzyme domains, eventually leading to the discovery of a series of oxazolone natural products. The aforementioned enzyme was shown to be the first described oxazolone synthetase, catalysing the cyclodehydration and oxidation of an N-acyl amino acid into an oxazolone. Oxazolones have a variety of uses in organic synthesis, prompting us to explore the biocatalytic potential of this enzyme through studies of its catalytic mechanism and substrate scope.
Bio: I hail from the Netherlands and completed my studies in the United States, including a Bachelor’s in biochemistry and computer science at Brown University, and a PhD in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley working with Prof. Jay Keasling at the Joint Bioenergy Institute. There I gained a great appreciation for life’s biosynthetic capabilities and how we can harness them for good, and quickly came to the conclusion that the field is limited by our understanding of the variety of chemical reactions that can be catalyzed enzymatically. I was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (University of California San Diego), working with Prof. Bradley Moore, where I explored the biosynthetic potential of the world’s oceans with the aim to expand our collective biosynthetic toolbox. Last year, I moved to New Zealand to join the University of Auckland School of Chemical Sciences as a Senior Lecturer.