About Dr. Burns...
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Brody School of Medicine
Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA (2000-2003)
NIH Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA (1998-2000)
PhD Organic Chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1998)
BA Chemistry, Kenyon College (1993)
Research in the Burns lab spans many fields including organic chemistry, peptide and protein chemistry, and biophysical chemistry. My students and I use organic synthesis in conjunction with the tools of biophysics and molecular biology to tackle problems of biological and medical significance. Many projects are collaborative and involve participants from other departments, universities, and medical schools. Three current topics being explored are summarized below:
- Elucidation of metal binding motifs and characterization of the effect metal binding has on the overall structure and behavior of a protein. Our investigations focus on copper binding by the prion protein and alpha-synuclein plus zinc binding by prothymosin-alpha. We have also examined prothymosin-alpha’s potent anti-HIV activity.
- Biophysical characterization of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs). We are studying how increasing temperature or solution ionic strength leads to compaction of peptides derived from the highly-charged protein prothymosin-alpha.
- Synthesis and evaluation of novel prostamides as potent and selective antitumor therapeutics. As part of collaborative effort at ECU, we participated in the discovery of 15-deoxy, Δ12,14-prostamide J2 which is a novel product of the metabolism of arachidonoyl ethanolamide by the enzyme cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). We are working on the synthesis of derivatives, determination of the mechanism of action, and aspects of the structure-activity relationship.
The instrumental techniques we rely on most extensively:
- Circular dichroism (CD) spectropolarimetry
- Electrospray-ionization mass spectrometry (ESI MS)
- 1D and 2D nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy
- Isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC)
- Fluorescence spectroscopy
- Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy