Thousands of different structures of sugar chains are found on glycoproteins, however, the role of these glycans in health and disease is largely undefined. The longterm goal of our research is to obtain knowledge of the molecular mechanisms controlling the biosynthesis of glycoprotein-bound glycans, and to understand the role of glycans in cell growth, cell death and cell adhesion. These biological processes are important in inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, in cystic fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, and other diseases.
The large polysaccharide capsule of the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans is a major virulence factor. We are involved in discovering the enzymes that assemble these capsules.
A major focus in the lab is the biochemistry of bacterial polysaccharides that are also important virulence factors. These complex carbohydrates function in the protection of microbes and in the communication mechanisms with the host. We have discovered a number of novel enzymes that transfer sugars in the biosynthesis of O antigens. We develop specific biochemical assays for these enzymes in order to develop inhibitors as anti-biotic drug candidates.