Swarts Lab

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry | Central Michigan University

Chemical tools for studying and targeting the mycomembrane

Research synopsis

Our research draws from the fields of chemistry, biochemistry, and microbiology to develop chemical biology tools for investigating and targeting cell envelope components in mycobacteria and related bacteria, which include the pathogen that causes tuberculosis.

We are particularly interested in developing new chemical probes to study the composition and dynamics of the mycobacterial outer membrane, or mycomembrane (stained in the image above), which is a valuable target for drug and diagnostic development.

(See complete description of research)

Lab news

02/21/2017: Video protocol in J. Vis. Exp.

Lisa Meints's paper, "Rapid one-step enzymatic synthesis and all-aqueous purification of trehalose analogues," has been published in the Journal of Visualized Experiments. This work, which is an extension of our previously published TreT-catalyzed synthesis of trehalose analogues, includes a detailed video protocol for obtaining TreT and using it to easily produce trehalose analogues. Much of this work was completed by Lisa Meints, while Brent Piligian performed the protocol on camera.

01/13/2017: Review article in Pure & Applied Chemistry

"Tailoring trehalose for biomedical and biotechnological applications" has been published in Pure Appl. Chem. This review article was heavily contributed to by undergraduate students Mara O'Neill and Brent Piligian. It covers chemical and chemoenzymatic approaches to trehalose analogue synthesis, as well as applications of trehalose analogues in various fields.

12/16/2016: New lab members & year in review

We celebrated a fun and productive 2016 during the year's final group meeting. Highlights included the group's trip to the ACS National Meeting in San Diego, a vibrant and productive summer research session, hosting the Midwest Carbohydrate and Glycobiology Symposium, moving into the Biosciences Building, publishing three research papers as well as various student arrivals, departures, and awards.

Several new students joined us over the course of the fall semester, including undergraduates Nate Holmes, Jessica Groenevelt, Alicyn Stothard, and Devin Moore, and M.S. students Doug Wing (a former undergrad in the lab) and Nicholas Banahene.

12/02/2016: JoVE on site for video protocol shoot

We worked with the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) to develop a script and shoot a video protocol for former M.S. student Lisa Meints's paper, "Rapid One-Step Enzymatic Synthesis and All-Aqueous Purification of Trehalose Analogues." Undergraduate student Brent Piligian (pictured) served as the on-camera talent and spent a day and a half shooting scenes for the video. Lab technician Anne Poston (also pictured) and Ben assisted with the shoot. CMU University Communications covered the shoot in a story titled "Research. Camera. Action!" The manuscript and video protocol should be published in early 2017.

11/01/2016: New paper in Chem. Commun.

Herbert's paper, "A chemical reporter strategy for detecting and identifying O-mycoloylated proteins in Corynebacterium," has been published in Chem. Commun. This paper describes a chemical approach to studying the scope and characteristics of a unique post-translational lipidation that occurs in species from the Corynebacterium genus, which are closely related to mycobacteria.

10/16/2016: CMU hosts 12th Midwest Carbohydrate and Glycobiology Symposium

We hosted the 12th annual MCGS here at CMU in the auditorium of the recently opened Biosciences Building October 14-15, 2016. With excellent student and postdoc posters and oral presentations, as well as lectures by leading principal investigators such as Nicola Pohl, David Crich, and Shahriar Mobashery, MCGS had another successful year. Herbert Kavunja, a postdoc in the lab, won a Best Oral Presentation Award (pictured at right, receiving the award from David Crich). Thanks to all who helped to organize and support the symposium, and we look forward to next year's meeting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

10/14/2016: Relocating to Biosciences

The lab has begun its trek from the Dow Science Complex to the new Biosciences Building (pictured). While our equipment and supplies will all be moved within a week, we expect to be offline for a couple of months as the lab is modified and set up for research activities.

9/22/2016: Biosciences Building grand opening

We are a few weeks from moving the lab into the new Biosciences Building, and today was its grand opening ceremony. Students, faculty, administrators, members of the Board of Trustees, and state representatives attended. An undergraduate student in the lab, Brent Piligian, gave a speech about what it means to have such a facility on the campus of Central Michigan University (pictured, bottom left).

8/26/2016: New paper in Org. Biomol. Chem.

Sarah and Zac's paper, "Deoxyfluoro-D-trehalose (FDTre) analogues as potential PET probes for imaging mycobacterial infection," has been published in Org. Biomol. Chem. This paper describes synthetic chemistry and biochemistry that support the development of a trehalose-based nuclear imaging probe with possible tuberculosis diagnostic applications. Selected as a hot paper.

7/28/2016: Thesis defense

Congratulations Lisa Meints on a successful M.S. thesis defense. Best of luck in the biomolecular sciences Ph.D. program at Michigan State University. We'll miss you!

5/13/2016: Group outing

The group in spring 2016 is pictured to the right, following a mini-golf and bowling day in mid-May.

5/01/2016: Farewells

We say goodbye to a number of wonderful friends and lab mates this summer. Hannah Foley, Max Hogue, Bailey Urbanek, and Sarah Rundell, who have been in the lab for 2-3 years each, will all receive their BS degrees from CMU and move on to bigger and better things. Hannah will join the chemistry Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan, while Sarah will begin a chemistry Ph.D. program at the Ohio State University. Bailey will start medical school at CMU, while Max will start dental school at University of Detroit-Mercy. We wish you all well.

3/29/2016: Student awards

A number of our students received awards or recognition this semester. Congratulations to Hannah Foley, a senior biochemistry major who recently published as a co-first author in ACIE, for winning CMU's President's Award for Undergraduate Research and the Midland ACS Section Outstanding Undergraduate Biochemist award. Congrats to Brent Piligian, a junior biomedical sciences major who published as a co-first author in Chem. Commun., for receiving an Honorable Mention for the Barry Goldwater scholarship. Congrats to Sarah Rundell, a senior biochemistry major who has published in Chem. Commun. and ACIE, for winning department awards for Outstanding Organic Chemist and Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher (update, August 2016: Sarah also just published a co-first author paper in Org. Biomol. Chem. on her main project in the lab). Finally, congrats to Claudia Ramsey, a junior biomedical sciences major, for receiving a CMU Summer Scholars Award, which will support her research in the lab this summer.

3/23/2016: Upcoming paper in J. Vis. Exp.

Lisa's paper, "Rapid One-Step Enzymatic Synthesis and All-Aqueous Purification of Trehalose Analogues," was accepted for publication in the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE). We will be working with JoVE to develop a video protocol for this synthetic method.

1/06/2016: New paper in Angew. Chem. Int. Edit.

Hannah and Jessica's paper, "Bioorthogonal chemical reporters for selective in situ probing of mycomembrane components in mycobacteria," has been published in Angew. Chem. Int. Edit. This paper describes a new set of chemical reporters that enable specific, sensitive, and simultaneous detection of the two major components of the mycobacterial outer membrane.