Zachary Raad

Zachary Raad

Heterologous Expression of Mycosporine-like Amino Acids


Zachary Raad, Manyun Chen, Garret Rubin, Guangde Jiang, Yousong Ding


Associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, Yousong Ding


College of Pharmacy


Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with over 1 in 5 Americans expected to develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the primary etiological agent of skin cancer, making sun protection essential. However, compounds commonly used in commercially-available sunscreens, including ZnO and TiO2 nanomaterials, have potential long-term detrimental environmental impacts, and adverse impacts on human health are also likely. Mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) are a class of natural products widespread among cyanobacteria and other aquatic and terrestrial phyla. MAAs are able to absorb across a broad light wavelength range and possess high molar extinction coefficients, lending them potential use in UV-resistant cosmetics. Recombinant plasmids containing genes of interest from a cyanobacterial strain encoding proteins in MAA biosynthesis pathways were transformed into Escherichia coli. E. coli cell pellets were extracted in methanol, and the extracts were analyzed using reverse-phase high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), liquid chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS), high resolution tandem mass spectrometry (HRMS/MS), and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. The experimental findings are currently protected under a disclosure agreement but include the first biochemical characterization of one of the MAA biosynthetic enzymes in terms of kinetic activity and substrate scope as well as the determination of the role of a novel biosynthetic enzyme. In addition to closing gaps in current knowledge of MAA biosynthesis, the study investigated the unclear role of a third biosynthetic enzyme, providing pathways for future research.


Hover over the image below to zoom in or click to view full screen.

Research Pitch

View a 3-minute research pitch below.

To comment below, please sign in with Facebook or Google (using your ufl account) by clicking the little round icons to the right. If you decide, you can post as a guest by entering name and email below, but will lose some features. You can also subscribe to the student’s page to get email updates on new comments.

Leave a Reply