- Prince George
Research and Expertise
Natural product chemistry is a sub-field of organic chemistry that is interested in the isolation, structure elucidation, biosynthesis, and synthesis of small molecule (< 2000 daltons) organic specialized metabolites produced for defence, signalling, and communication by various living organisms. These organic specialized metabolites are termed natural products by chemists studying them. Organic specialized metabolites are marked by their uniqueness, being the products of various mechanisms of natural selection, and are often singular to a species, a region, an ecological niche, or even a microbial strain. Chemically, they are marked by structural complexity – rich with stereocenters and heteroatoms. Societally, they have a wide variety of uses including pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and dyes. Indeed, current antibiotics overwhelmingly were characterized by natural product chemists from bacteria or fungi. Currently, due to the intersectionality of natural product chemistry, natural products are of interest to many varying scientists. Synthetic organic chemists make innovations in the study of the total synthesis of novel natural products and biochemists study the particular enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of the natural products as just some examples. Due to the intersectionality of natural product chemistry – natural product chemists use a diverse set of toolboxes to uncover new structures and new activities from a wide array of organisms and ecological niches.
The Morgan group is particularly interested in the natural products waiting to be uncovered in the diverse ecologies of the northern boreal forests. Of particular interest are those natural products produced in bacteria from insect microbiomes of the northern boreal forests that may be involved in chemical ecology and have uses as agrochemicals or other bioactivities. To prioritize bacterial species for the isolation and structure elucidation of natural products from crude extracts, a variety of tools are utilized including gene clusters, gene cluster families, NMR shielding constants, UV/chromatographic properties, and bioassay results. To complete the structure elucidation of the purified natural products, standard tools such as NMR and mass spectrometry are used. Stereochemistry is generally solved in this group by a mixture of standard experimental tools, including through-space NMR experiments and synthetic transformations. At this time, natural product classes of particular interest are the PK-NRP hybrids produced by bacteria, particularly those with unusual nonproteinogenic amino acid residues. Of growing interest is the microbial terpenome, which is particularly under-explored in bacteria. Once new structures and new structural families that display bioactive properties are uncovered; then there is interest in utilizing semisynthetic, synthetic, and chemoenzymatic tools to study the relationship between structure and activity.
Undergraduate research experience is very valuable. All undergraduate students interested in natural product chemistry are welcome and encouraged to apply for UNBC’s Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) award, Chem 499s, and Chem 430s under my supervision. Students with chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and computer science backgrounds are welcome. It should be noted that Org Lab I and II are generally essential background knowledge for work in a natural product chemistry lab. Additionally, for students interested in natural product chemistry, it is highly recommended to take Chem 210 (Analytical I) and Chem 310 (Analytical II) which support the background in chromatography and advanced organic spectroscopic knowledge that is indispensable in natural product chemistry research. Students with a biology background who are interested in microbial metabolites are also welcome for select projects. Students with a background in computer science who are interested in bioinformatics as it applies to natural product discovery are also most welcome for select projects – in this case, some organic chemistry or biochemistry courses would be advantageous.Research Fields:
Natural Product Discovery, Natural Product Isolation, Structure Elucidation, Bioinformatics, Natural Product Biosynthesis, Genome Mining, Drug DiscoveryLanguages Spoken:
- MSc Chemistry
Currently accepting MSc Chemistry students and Postdoctoral fellows who have their own funding or are applying for their own funding.
Morgan, Kalindi D.; Williams, David E.; Patrick, Brian O.; Banuelos, Adriana; Sadar, Marianne D.; Andersen, Raymond; Ryan, Katherine. Incarnatapeptins A and B, Nonribosomal Peptides Discovered Using Using Genome Mining and 1H/15N HSQC-TOCSY. Org. Lett. 2020, 22 (11), 4053–4057. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.orglett.0c00818.
Morgan, Kalindi D.; Andersen, Raymond J.; Ryan, Katherine S. Piperazic acid-containing natural products: structures and biosynthesis. Nat Prod Rep. 2019 Apr 5. doi: 10.1039/c8np00076j.
Morgan, K.D., Williams, D.E., Ryan, K.S., Andersen, R.J. (2022) Dentigerumycins F and G: Dynamic Structures retrieved through a genome-mining/nitrogen-NMR methodology. Tet. Lett. 94 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tetlet.2022.153688
Williams, D.E.*, Morgan, K.D.*, Dalisay, D.S., Matainaho, L., Perrachon, E., Viller, N., Delcroix, M., Gauchot, J., Patrick, B.O., Ryan, K.S., Andersen, R.J. (2022) Secondary Metabolites Produced in Culture by Biosynthetically Talented Bacteria Isolated from Northeastern and South Pacific Sediments. Molecules. 10.3390/molecules27113569 *These authors contributed equally