With this award, the Chemistry of Life Processes Program in the Chemistry Division is funding Dr. Jessica R. Kramer from The University of Utah to develop chemical tools to study the carbohydrates on cell surfaces, collectively termed the glycocalyx. The glycocalyx influences diverse biological events, but remains challenging to study due to a lack of tools to analyze and manipulate the carbohydrates. This award funds development of new chemical methods to make the components of the glycocalyx and display them on live cells. These methods have broad implications for investigating interactions at the cell-surface from cellular communication to nutrient absorption, fertilization, and immunity. This pursuit allows undergraduate and graduate students to acquire specialized training in carbohydrate chemistry, polymer science, and cell biology. This project also integrates into several outreach programs that support high school education and female undergraduate and graduate students in the pursuit of STEM careers.

This research project undertakes development of a method to engineer the glycocalyx by fusing natural and synthesized protein domains on live cells. The glycocalyx is involved in nearly all aspects of biology, yet remains challenging to study due to a lack of tools to analyze and manipulate protein glycoforms. Mucin 1 is a major protein component of the glycocalyx. Mucin 1 mimic polypeptides with precise glycosylation patterns are chemically synthesized by polymerization of N-carboxyanhydrides. The polypeptides are biorthogonally conjugated to an engineered truncated mucin 1 protein expressed on live cell surfaces, which allows the study of biological effects of specific glycoforms. This study provides new chemical tools and methods to interrogate the glycocalyx and probe glycan-dependent signaling.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Chemistry (CHE)
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Max Funk
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University of Utah
Salt Lake City
United States
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