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SOAR 2018 Kylie Chichura ’19

Kylie Chichura ’19

“The Effects of Multiple Amino Acid Mutations of a Key Quorum Sensing Peptide, CSP-1”

Major/Minor: Chemistry, math
Hometown: Taylor, PA
Project Advisor: Dr. Michael Bertucci

Describe your project.

The scope of the project was to replace small molecules as treatments for antibiotic-resistant infections caused by the gram-positive bacteria, S. pneumoniae. Competence stimulating peptide, CSP-1, is this bacteria’s mechanism of intercellular communication. Amino acids in the hydrophobic region of CSP-1 were substituted with unnatural amino acids to optimize and analyze the binding pocket of the receptor.

I synthesized peptides using Solid-Phase Peptide Synthesis and a CEM Microwave Synthesizer, and I purified the peptides using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography to 95% or greater. I traveled to the University of Nevada, Reno and worked in a research group under the guidance of Dr. Yftah Tal-Gan. I conducted biological assays by growing S. pneumoniae to test the concentrations of the mutants I synthesized against the native peptide, CSP-1.

How did your project come about?

The student working on this project prior to me synthesized peptides with single amino acid mutations, and I focused on using his data to make multiple amino acid substitutions.

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What was the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights did he bring to your project?

I learned a lot from Dr. Bertucci. He is very knowledgeable about this subject.

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

I have struggled with accurately synthesizing peptides. When I do not get my desired product, I must start over.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

I traveled to Reno, Nevada and got to experience the life of a graduate school student.

What was the result of your project?

Two peptides I synthesized were competitive against the native peptide.

Overall, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian College?

I feel very grateful for being able to experience chemistry one-on-one with Dr. Bertucci. For students who want to learn more about their desired subject, I would suggest applying to SOAR.

Do you plan to expand upon your research?

I am continuing my project through the honors program, where I am continuing to synthesize and purify more peptides.

Any plans to present this research outside the SOAR presentations?

I presented this research in August 2018 at the National ACS Conference in Boston, and I plan to present on campus again at Scholar’s Day.