Microorganisms have evolved an astoundingly versatile armamentarium of catabolic enzymes and pathways to degrade the vast array of organic compounds that occur in the environment. These catabolic activities constitute an essential link in the global carbon cycle, and as such are critical to maintaining the health of the biosphere. In addition to their fundamental importance, microbial catabolic enzymes are of tremendous practical importance. First, they represent an enormous, barely tapped source of biocatalysts for green chemistry and bioremediation applications. Second, such enzymes can be important targets for novel therapeutics to treat infectious diseases.
Research in the Eltis lab seeks to understand microbial enzymes and pathways involved in the degradation of natural and man-made compounds. We currently study the following systems:
- PCB- and biphenyl-degrading enzymes
- Nitrile degradation in Rhodococcus
- The degradation of explosives by actinomycetes
Human health applications:
- Cholesterol catabolic enzymes of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
- Viral 3C proteases