Research Starter Grant

Project: Research project

Project Details


The laccase CotA from Bacillus subtilus belongs to the family of multi-copper oxidase enzymes. Since laccases are the simplest representative of this family, they are used as a model system for structure/function relationships. CotA is a 'generalist', an enzyme with broad substrate specificity, and it will be engineered by laboratory evolution to function as a 'specialist', an enzyme with narrowed substrate specificity. Revealing the molecular details necessary for the enzyme to gain specificity toward different substrates has significant intellectual merit. Enzymes discovered from this project should provide protein engineering principles that can be applied to other enzymes. Substrate specific laccases can be further developed for applications in biosensors, bioremediation, and environmentally clean catalysts. Finally, analyzing the structures, kinetics, and spectroscopic properties of the enzyme's lineage can elucidate how the enzyme adapts towards its new function.

Broader impact: The project has many aspects devoted to promoting teaching and learning. Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers will be trained in the emerging field of molecular evolution. Undergraduates will have an opportunity to contribute original research through the Ronald E. McNair program at NJIT. This program is designed to help low-income and first-generation or underrepresented students in science, engineering and mathematics. The research results will be presented at national and international meetings. Furthermore, since the project is multidisciplinary, the results will be presented at meetings that vary in focus. The research will also be described to a non-technical audience through the Center of Pre-College Programs at NJIT. Together with a high school instructor, the principal investigator will develop an interactive presentation describing the research which would be incorporated into the high school curriculum. Also, the planned research enhances international and intradepartmental partnerships. The crystal structures of the interesting variants will be solved in collaboration with Dr. Ligia O. Martins at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Oeiras, Portugal. Furthermore, energy minimization calculations will be done with Prof. Carol Venanzi at NJIT.

Effective start/end date7/1/056/30/06


  • National Science Foundation: $50,000.00


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