Martin and Butts labs investigate Cape sundew
Carnivorous plants such the Cape sundew, Drosera capensis, employ a specific class of enzymes called chitinases to cleave chitin, a biopolymer, found in the exoskeleton of insect prey. Chitinases possesses a diverse range of practical applications such as anti-fungal agents, pesticides and industrial and biochemical polymers. Researchers in the Martin and Butts labs investigated 11 novel chitinases from D. capensis – 8 from Glycosyl Hydrolase (GH) family 18 and 3 from GH family 19, utilizing comparative modeling, structure prediction, and molecular dynamics simulation. After structure prediction, the chitinases were matured in silico, which entailed cleavage of signal peptides, generation of disulfide bonds, and other modifications to yield active chitinase models. Protein structure network analysis was performed to characterize family-specific structural features of the two GH families. The aforementioned pipeline can elucidate the dynamics of enzyme hydrolytic cleavage, enabling us to further current understanding of glycochemistry and discover new enzymes for use in laboratory applications.