ChemBio e-seminar by Prof. Rebecca Butcher


Event details

Date 26.04.2022
Location Online
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English
Title: Decoding the chemical signals of the worm

Abstract: The nematode C. elegans uses small molecules to communicate with other worms and to control fundamental processes, such as development, metabolism, fertility, and lifespan.  This talk will describe our work on two important classes of natural products from C. elegans, the ascarosides and the nemamides.  C. elegans secretes ascarosides, derivatives of the 3,6-dideoxysugar ascarylose, as pheromones to coordinate its development and behavior. We are using a multidisciplinary approach, including RNAi-based screens, metabolomics, in vitro enzyme assays, organic synthesis of biosynthetic intermediates, and X-ray crystallography, to study the ascaroside biosynthetic pathway.  Our work has shown how the worm uses peroxisomal b-oxidation to control the chemical message that it produces and how environmental conditions and other factors influence this message.  In a second area of research, we have used comparative metabolomics and NMR spectroscopy to discover the first hybrid polyketide-nonribosomal peptides from an animal, the nemamides from C. elegans.  We are using CRISPR-Cas9 and comparative metabolomics to map the role of specific enzymatic domains in nemamide biosynthesis.  Our work is providing insights into the biosynthesis of natural products in the context of a complex animal system.

Speaker's Biography: Rebecca A. Butcher earned her Ph.D. with Stuart Schreiber at Harvard as an NSF predoctoral fellow. She then pursued postdoctoral studies with Jon Clardy at Harvard Medical School, supported by an NIH NRSA postdoctoral fellowship and an NIH Pathway to Independence award. She began her independent career in 2010 in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Florida and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2017. Dr. Butcher is the recipient of a Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award, a New Scholar in Aging Award from the Ellison Medical Foundation, and a CAREER award from the NSF. She was named a Sloan Fellow by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and a Cottrell Scholar by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

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Practical information

  • Informed public
  • Free