Gregory Hudalla, associate professor and J. Crayton Pruitt Family Term Fellow, has received a Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (R35) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). NIGMS is a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The $1.8M grant will fund Hudalla’s study of “Glycosylation as a Structural Determinant in Peptide Fibrillization” over the next five years.
Carbohydrates are extraordinarily abundant in the natural world. They make up cellulose in trees and chitin in sea creatures’ exoskeletons. They also decorate all human cells and nearly half of all human proteins, which helps our immune system identify foreign invaders. Yet, “our understanding of the role of carbohydrates in health and disease lags far behind that of all other biomolecules,” said Hudalla, “due to a lack of sophisticated tools and techniques.” Through this award, his research program will close this knowledge gap by developing synthetic analogs of carbohydrate-modified proteins. Specifically, they will create carbohydrate-modified peptides that assemble into fibrillar (strand-like) architectures as a surrogate for highly complex folded proteins. Hudalla and his team will be looking at how carbohydrate appendages influence the folding of peptides into strand-like ‘nanofibers,’ as well as the way these nanofibers function in biological contexts.
Outcomes expected from this award:
- A diverse library of new carbohydrate-modified peptides
- Understanding of how carbohydrates alter the assembly and structure of peptide nanofibers
- New bio-inspired architectures built using peptides and carbohydrates
Hudalla leads the UF Laboratory for Supramolecular Biomaterials and Biotherapeutics, where researchers combine carbohydrates, peptides, and proteins into novel biomedical constructs. Their work provides fundamental insights into how these biomolecules interact with each other in various contexts. In turn, this knowledge enables researchers to predict and manipulate the structure and function of carbohydrates, peptides, and proteins within living systems.