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Biochemistry Seminar: Dr. Angad P. Mehta (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), "Synthetic approaches to study evolution and develop biologics"

Event Type
biochemistry, biological sciences, host-pathogen interactions, microbial physiology, microbiology, molecular biology, molecular evolution, protein structure, regulation of gene expression, signal trasduction
Dr. Satish Nair, Department of Biochemistry
Zoom Meeting Link https://illinois.zoom.us/j/93301854509 Meeting ID: 933 0185 4509 (Request Meeting Passcode – via sunkraut@illinois.edu or your department office admin assistant)
Oct 16, 2020   12:00 pm  
Dr. Angad P. Mehta, Department of Chemistry, UIUC
Sherry Unkraut
Originating Calendar
Biochemistry Department Seminars

Abstract: In this talk, I will discuss our investigations into two key areas: (i) experimental models
to study endosymbiotic theory-based organelle evolution, and (ii) developing universal and
modular vaccine platforms for live attenuated bacterial and viral vaccine candidates. In the first
part of my talk, I will discuss our synthetic approaches to experimentally study mitochondrial and
chloroplast evolution in laboratory setting. The origin of organelles is one of the key outstanding
questions in the evolution of eukaryotic organisms. Based on the endosymbiotic theory,
eukaryotic organelles like mitochondria and chloroplasts are proposed to have originated and
evolved from bacterial endosymbionts during an early stage of evolution; sequencing studies
spanning several decades have supported this hypothesis. However, there is minimal
understanding (if any) of how bacterial endosymbionts evolved and transformed into organelles.
In our initial efforts, we modeled the first stage of mitochondrial evolution by engineering
endosymbiosis between two genetically tractable model organisms, E. coli and S. cerevisiae. In
this model system, we engineered E. coli strains to survive in the yeast cytosol, and provide ATP
to a respiration-deficient yeast mutant. In a reciprocal fashion, yeast provided thiamin to an
endosymbiotic E. coli thiamin auxotroph. Similarly, I will also describe our efforts to engineer
cyanobacterial endosymbionts within yeast cells as a step towards studying chloroplast evolution
in laboratory setting. These readily manipulated systems should allow us to investigate various
aspects of the endosymbiotic theory of organelle evolution. In the next part of this talk, I will
describe our directed evolution strategies to generate synthetic auxotrophs as live bacterial and
viral vaccine candidates. Particularly, I will discuss our approaches to design universal and
modular vaccine platforms against RNA viruses (including SARS-CoV-2). I will also briefly
describe our strategy to design modular vaccine planforms against virulent bacteria.

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