Farnesyl diphosphate (FPP) is an 15 carbon molecule that serves a multitude of functions in biological systems. It acts as a membrane anchor for signaling proteins that regulate cell growth (cancer), it is the precursor to many natural products with medicinal activity (drug development) and it initiates the process in plants that results in the formation of natural rubber (biotechnology). We are interested in studying enzymes that use FPP as a substrate. Very recently we have also become interested in using analogues of FPP to incorporate non-natural functional groups into proteins to facilitate the formation of protein-based nanostructures.
A very broad range of experimental methods are employed by researchers in the Distefano group. Most members perform a mixture of organic synthesis, protein purification and enzymological studies supplemented with additional activities that range computational experiments to cell biology. Numerous collaborations are also in place with other researchers at the University of Minnesota (Physics, Medicinal Chemistry, Biochemistry and Public Health) as well as with other industrial and academic laboratories.