Laura L. Kiessling

University of Wisconsin-Madison


Election Year: 2007
Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Secondary Section: 21, Biochemistry
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

In my research, we employ organic synthesis and polymer chemistry to explore interactions on the cell surface, especially those that mediated by proteins binding to carbohydrates. We have long been interested in elucidating and exploiting the biological roles of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates often function through multivalent interactions, processes in which multiple binding groups contact multiple receptors. Our work has demonstrated that multivalent carbohydrate - protein interactions can occur with high specificity, even when the individual protein and carbohydrate partners interact weakly and non-selectively. We exploited this specificity to develop a new anti-cancer strategy. We also constructed multivalent ligands that inhibit a protein (L-selectin) by inducing its proteolytic release from the cell-surface. We have demonstrated that multivalent ligands can be used to assemble cells, a finding that could be used to recruit natural killer cells to cancer cells or pathogens. Multivalent binding is prevalent in biology. Access to multivalent ligands, therefore, provides tools to study physiological processes beyond carbohydrate recognition. For example, using multivalent ligands as attractants in bacterial chemotaxis, we found that receptor-receptor interactions are critical for signal amplification, thereby demonstrating that sensing-receptors operate not as individuals but as an array.

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