Title: Exploiting chemical biology to advance applications of structural mass spectrometry
Biomolecules including proteins, DNA and lipids control all biological processes as a result of precise and intricate molecular associations. Consequently, to understand these processes and offer potential for intervention, it is necessary to have a physical understanding of the molecular components and their binding interactions. Mass spectrometry has emerged as a highly versatile alternative to traditional structural biology methods, capable of defining identity, stoichiometry, size, structural arrangement and subunit interactions in a biomolecular assembly in a single experiment.
Research in the Pukala group is aimed at development of mass spectrometry-based approaches to enable structure determination of challenging macromolecular assemblies. We additionally utilise chemical modification strategies for biomacromolecules to enhance mass spectrometric detection and provide greater detail of their higher order structure and interactions. This presentation will describe some of our recent applications of this methodology to investigate assemblies of interest in human health, for example, characterising the protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions mediating misfolding and toxicity in amyloid diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease, and describing the diverse protein structures important in snake envenomation.
Tara Pukala obtained a PhD from the University of Adelaide in 2006 under the supervision of Prof John Bowie, which was followed by a postdoctoral position at the University of Cambridge, UK, working with Prof Dame Carol Robinson in the field of native mass spectrometry. Tara returned to Australia to her current role as lecturer in the Discipline of Chemistry at the University of Adelaide in 2008. Here she leads a multidisciplinary research group focused on developing new approaches, primarily utilising mass spectrometry and bioconjugation chemistry, to investigate the structure, function and interactions of macromolecules important in biology and human health. Tara currently serves as President of the Australian and New Zealand society for mass spectrometry and was awarded the 2017 Bowie medal from that society for her contributions to the field. Since 2017 she has had the role of Scientific Director of the Adelaide Proteomics Centre and was recently appointed as Associate Dean of Graduate Studies for the Faculty of Sciences Engineering and Technology at the University of Adelaide.