Synthetic Chemical Biology
The Mehl Lab uses genetic code expansion to site-specifically incorporate non-canonical amino acids (ncAAs) into proteins to advance the capabilities of biochemical studies and technological development with bio-molecules. The incorporation of ncAAs into proteins is a cornerstone of chemical biology and will likely be the next major building block for advancing both biotechnology and nanotechnology. The key advantage to genetic code expansion is that it allows proteins to be engineered with molecular control in living cells and in the fabrication of nanomaterials in. In order to engineer these proteins the concepts of synthetic biology are applied to alter protein translation. This reengineering of translation in vivo allows for precise incorporation of unique chemical functionality that can be used for chemical biology in vivo and in vitro as well as fabricating new materials.
Our current research efforts center around four areas: (1) Genetic code expansion, (2) developing polymer-protein hybrid materials, (3) determining the physiological effects of protein nitration and oxidation, and (4) developing catalyst-free in vivo bioorthogonal methods.