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Chemistry and Biochemistry

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This collection contains research from members of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at George Mason University.

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    The Approach to Sample Acquisition and Its Impact on the Derived Human Fecal Microbiome and VOC Metabolome
    (Public Library of Science, 2013-11-18) Couch, Robin D.; Navarro, Karl; Sikaroodi, Masoumeh; Gillevet, Pat; Forsyth, Christopher B.; Mutlu, Ece; Engen, Phillip A.; Keshavarzian, Ali
    Recent studies have illustrated the importance of the microbiota in maintaining a healthy state, as well as promoting disease states. The intestinal microbiota exerts its effects primarily through its metabolites, and metabolomics investigations have begun to evaluate the diagnostic and health implications of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) isolated from human feces, enabled by specialized sampling methods such as headspace solid-phase microextraction (hSPME). The approach to stool sample collection is an important consideration that could potentially introduce bias and affect the outcome of a fecal metagenomic and metabolomic investigation. To address this concern, a comparison of endoscopically collected (in vivo) and home collected (ex vivo) fecal samples was performed, revealing slight variability in the derived microbiomes. In contrast, the VOC metabolomes differ widely between the home collected and endoscopy collected samples. Additionally, as the VOC extraction profile is hyperbolic, with short extraction durations more vulnerable to variation than extractions continued to equilibrium, a second goal of our investigation was to ascertain if hSPME-based fecal metabolomics studies might be biased by the extraction duration employed. As anticipated, prolonged extraction (18 hours) results in the identification of considerably more metabolites than short (20 minute) extractions. A comparison of the metabolomes reveals several analytes deemed unique to a cohort with the 20 minute extraction, but found common to both cohorts when the VOC extraction was performed for 18 hours. Moreover, numerous analytes perceived to have significant fold change with a 20 minute extraction were found insignificant in fold change with the prolonged extraction, underscoring the potential for bias associated with a 20 minute hSPME.
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    Covalent modification of a ten-residue cationic antimicrobial peptide with levofloxacin
    (Frontiers Media, 2014-09-18) Rodriguez, Carlos A.; Papanastasiou, Emilios A.; Juba, Melanie; Bishop, Barney
    The rampant spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria has spurred interest in alternative strategies for developing next-generation antibacterial therapies. As such, there has been growing interest in cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) and their therapeutic applications. Modification of CAMPs via conjugation to auxiliary compounds, including small molecule drugs, is a new approach to developing effective, broad-spectrum antibacterial agents with novel physicochemical properties and versatile antibacterial mechanisms. Here, we've explored design parameters for engineering CAMPs conjugated to small molecules with favorable physicochemical and antibacterial properties by covalently affixing a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, levofloxacin, to the ten-residue CAMP Pep-4. Relative to the unmodified Pep-4, the conjugate was found to demonstrate substantially increased antibacterial potency under high salt concentrations. Historically, it has been observed that most CAMPs lose antibacterial effectiveness in such high ionic strength environments, a fact that has presented a challenge to their development as therapeutics. Physicochemical studies revealed that P4LC was more hydrophobic than Pep-4, while mechanistic findings indicated that the conjugate was more effective at disrupting bacterial membrane integrity. Although the inherent antibacterial effect of the incorporated levofloxacin molecules did not appear to be substantially realized in this conjugate, these findings nevertheless suggest that covalent attachment of small molecule antibiotics with favorable physicochemical properties to CAMPs could be a promising strategy for enhancing peptide performance and overall therapeutic potential. These results have broader applicability to the development of future CAMP-antibiotic conjugates for potential therapeutic applications.