Developing New Chemical Tools for Chemical Biology
Michael Pluth, Chemistry
The Pluth lab uses molecular recognition strategies to design new chemical tool for detecting important biological species. As new biological analytes are discovered, sensitive tools are needed to visualize these species in live cells and tissues. We use a variety of synthetic (orglovebox1ganic, inorganic, air-free) and spectroscopic (UV-vis, IR, UV-vis, fluorescence) techniques to prepare, characterize, and test our developed scaffolds. Recently, we have developed a series of visible, fluorescent, and chemiluminescent probes to visualize hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in different environments. We are interested in further sharpening these recently-developed tools and also developing new, selective, detection methods for other important biological analytes.

REU students would be introduced to commonly-used techniques in the Pluth lab including organic synthesis, compound purification, and photophysical studies. A representative project for an REU student would be preparing a chromophore with a reactive group able to detect a biological analyte such as H2S. After preparation of the scaffold, the photophysical properties, such as extinction coefficient and quantum yield, would be measured. After learning about handling reactive biological species, the selectivity of the developed scaffold would be tested to determine whether the desired selectivity was obtained.  Such a project would provide the students with a working knowledge of contemporary goals in chemical biology, expose him/her to the basics of visible spectroscopies, and provide hands-on organic synthesis experience.