Neil Marsh, Ph.D.

Professor, Biological Chemistry

4537 Chemistry, Box 1055

(734) 763-6096

Areas of Interest

Our laboratory is interested in enzymology and protein design. Our research is inherently inter-disciplinary in nature and draws on a synergistic combination of bio-organic, bio-inorganic and bio-physical chemistry. We are fortunate to enjoy various productive collaborations with other research groups at Michigan.

Our interest in protein design led us to explore the properties of novel "Teflon-like" proteins that incorporate highly fluorinated amino acids within their hydrophobic cores. We have designed a series of model proteins that contain the fluorinated amino acid hexafluoroleucine to examine how fluorination can be used to modulate the physical and biological properties of proteins. We found that fluorinated proteins exhibit remarkable stability that allows them to resist unfolding by heat and organic solvents and degradation by proteases. We are applying these design principles to the development of fluorinated antimicrobial peptides, short peptides that kill bacteria by selectively disrupting their membranes. We aim to design fluorous antimicrobial peptides that will have enhanced selectivity for bacterial membranes and better resist degradation by proteases. We are also developing methods to follow the fate of peptides in vivo using fluorine NMR as a probe.

We are currently studying three enzymes that catalyze unusual and chemically difficult reactions that involve metal cofactors and/or reactive free radical intermediates. Benzylsuccinate synthase is a free radical-containing enzyme that catalyzes the first step in the metabolism of toluene - anaerobic bacteria that contain this enzyme can live on toluene as their sole carbon source! Glutamate mutase catalyzes an unusual carbon skeleton rearrangement involved in glutamate fermentation; it uses coenzyme B12, a cobalt-containing organo-metallic complex, to generate reactive free radicals that initiate the reaction mechanism. Lastly, we have begun to study aldehyde decarbonylase, an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of long-chain aldehydes to alkanes and carbon monoxide, which is involved in hydrocarbon biosynthesis in plants and algae.

Increasingly, our attention is focused on enzymes involved in hydrocarbon metabolism as these may prove useful for the synthesis of new biofuels and bioremediation of hydrocarbon-contaminated soils. Our primary goal is to understand how these enzymes generate and control chemically reactive intermediates to catalyze their reactions; we then aim to apply what we learn to engineer new pathways for hydrocarbon metabolism.

Honors & Awards

1990 Royal Society University Research Fellowship
1992 Research Fellow Darwin College, University of Cambridge
2001 G.W. Raiziss Distinguished Visiting Felllow, University of Pennsylvania
2005 Co-Chair Biorganic Chemistry Gordon Research Conf.
2005 Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry, U.K.
2007 Doctor of Science, University of Cambridge

Published Articles or Reviews

A. Patwardhan and E.N.G. Marsh (2007) “Changes in the Free Energy Profile of Glutamate Mutase Imparted by the Mutation of an Active Site Arginine Residue to Lysine”Arch. Biochem. Biophys., in press PMID: 17306212

M-C. Cheng and E.N.G. Marsh (2006) “Evidence for Coupled Motion and Hydrogen Tunneling the Reaction Catalyzed by Glutamate Mutase”Biochemistry, in press
L. Li and E.N.G. Marsh (2006) “Mechanism of Benzylsuccinate Synthase Probed by Substrate Exchange” J. Am. Chem. Soc., 128, 16056 -16058

L. Li and E.N.G. Marsh (2006) “Deuterium isotope effects in the unusual addition of toluene to fumarate catalyzed by benzylsuccinate synthase” Biochemistry, 45, 13932 - 13938 PMID: 17105211

M. Yoon, A. Patwardhan, C. Qiao, S. Mansoorabadi, A.L. Menefee, G.R. Reed and E.N.G. Marsh (2006) “The reaction of adenosylcobalamin-dependent glutamate mutase with 2-thioglutarate” Biochemistry, 45, 11650 - 11657

H.-Y. Lee, K.-H. Lee, H. M. Al Hashimi and E.N.G. Marsh (2006) “Modulating protein structure with fluorous amino acids: increased stability and native-like structure conferred on a 4-helix bundle protein by hexafluoroleucine” J. Am. Chem. Soc., 128, 337-343 PMID: 16390163

K-H. Lee, C. Cabello, L. Hemmingsen, E.N.G. Marsh and V.L. Pecoraro (2006) “Using nonnatural amino acids to control metal-coordination number in three-stranded coiled coils” Angew. Chem. Int. Edn., 45 2864 - 2868 PMID: 16596690

A.J. Brooks, C.C. Fox, E.N.G. Marsh, M. Vlasie, R. Banerjee and T. C. Brunold (2005) “Electronic structure studies of the adenosylcobalamin cofactor in glutamate mutase” Biochemistry, 44, 15167-15181 PMID: 16285720

R.J. Sension, A.D. Harris, A. Stickrath, A.G. Cole, C.C. Fox, and E.N.G. Marsh (2005) “Time-resolved measurements of the photolysis and recombination of adenosylcobalamin bound to glutamate mutase”J. Phys. Chem. B, 109, 18146-18152

C. Qiao and E.N.G. Marsh (2005) “Mechanism of benzylsuccinate synthase: stereochemistry of toluene addition to fumarate and maleate ”J. Am. Chem. Soc., 127, 8608-8609

M.-C. Cheng and E.N.G. Marsh (2005) “Isotope effects for the transfer of deuterium between glutamate and 5’-deoxyadensosine in adenosylcobalamin-dependent glutamate mutase ” Biochemistry, 44, 2686-2691

For a complete list of this person’s PubMed publications, click HERE