WIC – Organic Seminar – Prof. Laura Kiessling (MIT)

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1315 Seminar Hall
@ 3:30 pm

Title: Chemical probes of bacterial glycans


Laura Kiessling earned a BS in Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Yale University.  After two years at the California Institute of Technology as an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow, she joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1991. In 2017, she returned to MIT as the Novartis Professor of Chemistry and Member of the Broad Institute. Her interdisciplinary research interests have advanced our understanding of cell surface recognition processes, especially those involving protein-glycan interactions. Laura is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Member of the American Academy of Microbiology, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Medicine. She was the founding Editor–In-Chief of ACS Chemical Biology. Her honors and awards include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the ACS Gibbs Medal, the Tetrahedron Prize, the Centenary Prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Ronald Breslow Award in Biomimetic Chemistry.


Bacteria rely on their microbial glycans to survive. Moreover, they use this glycan covering to mediate host colonization, pathogenesis, and regulate immune responses. Controlling the microbes that live in us –to our benefit or detriment—requires new strategies to detect and visualize their glycans. Our group has developed novel chemical probes image and report on microbial polysaccharides. This talk will describe new methods that rely on new chemistry to visualize critical glycans within the carbohydrate coat of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and related pathogens. We have employed glycolipids that function as biosynthetic precursors for glycosyltransferases, which incorporate them into designated cell envelope glycans. Using these chemical probes, we have elucidated how mycobacterial glycans change upon infection or antibiotic treatment. An increased understanding of the pathways and functions of these non- human glycans will aid in combating and controlling infectious diseases.

Student Host: Jordan York