One of the most significant and challenging problems in chemical biology is understanding how non-living matter can assemble to form life. We are approaching this problem through the synthesis of artificial cells, developing coupling reactions that drive the self-assembly, growth, and reproduction of lipid vesicle assemblies. To guide our work, we are developing chemical tools to blueprint the structure and function of modern cells. Using this combined approach, we strive to understand the prerequisite chemistry from which biology can emerge.
Devaraj Lab is hiring postdoctoral fellows. Click below if interested in joining the lab.
Changing the structure of lipids can play important roles in membrane biology and dysregulation can lead to disease. While artificial membranes have been used to model the properties of native membranes, previous methods have not been able to mimic lipid membrane remodeling. We recently have shown that reversible chemical reactions can be harnessed to achieve spontaneous remodeling of lipids in synthetic membranes.
Though Native Chemical Ligation (NCL) has been ubiquitously used to assemble peptides and proteins, we have used NCL to assemble phospholipids. This enables nonenzymatic formation of phospholipid vesicles/membranes from thioester precursors, mimicking the membrane protein catalyzed assembly of phospholipids in live cells, which also uses long chain thioesters as precursors.