Frank Löffler and Jun Yan publish article about unsubstituted purine in the journal Nature Chemical Biology
Biology synthesizes a variety of purine bases such as adenine and guanine, which serve as essential building blocks of DNA – the molecule that codes for cellular functions in all life forms. Remarkably, unsubstituted purine has never been assigned a biological role. A research group led by Frank Löffler, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair Professor and director of UT’s Center for Environmental Biotechnology, discovered that unsubstituted purine serves as a crucial component of a vitamin B12 derivative in certain bacteria. In detailed experiments, Jun Yan, the lead author of this study, and collaborators from the UT Department of Chemistry and the University of Toronto have now shown that purinyl-cobamide is a co-factor for so called reductive dehalogenase enzyme systems, which fulfill crucial functions for cleaning up contaminated environments and drinking water. The authors’ work has broader impact, as it generates new prospects for modulating functionalities of microbiomes and potentially offers new opportunities to affect the progression of certain human diseases. The authors’ findings appear in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.