Mary Jo Ondrechen
1978 Ph.D., Northwestern University
1974 B.A., Reed College
Area(s) of Expertise
Theoretical Chemical Biology/Physics
Prof. Ondrechen’s research group specializes in theoretical and computational chemistry and computational biology. Areas of interest include: 1) Understanding the fundamental basis for enzyme catalysis; 2) Functional genomics – prediction of the functional roles of gene products (proteins); 3) Modeling of enzyme-substrate interactions; 4) Drug discovery; and 5) Bioinformatics. With the sequencing of the human genome and the genomes of hundreds of species of interest, Structural Genomics (SG) projects have now reported over 12,000 new protein structures. The next question is: What do these structures actually do? Prof. Ondrechen’s group is developing methods to predict protein function from structure. Our THEMATICS (see Ondrechen et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 98, 12473, 2001) and POOL (see Tong, Wei, Murga, Ondrechen and Williams, PLoS Computational Biology, 2009) methods require only the structure of the query protein and thus work for proteins that bear no resemblance to previously characterized proteins.
Current projects deal with: 1) Exploring the multilayer nature of enzyme active sites – we are able to predict when remote amino acid residues are involved in catalysis; 2) Discovering the function of Structural Genomics proteins expressed from the genome that are currently of unknown function; 3) Using THEMATICS and POOL for the analysis of specific enzymes of biological, medical, or industrial importance; 4) Development of novel methodologies for protein function prediction; and 5) Computer-guided drug discovery. We work in collaboration with experimentalists to test and verify our predictions pertaining to multilayer active sites, to advance drug discovery, and also to test our predicted functional annotations of Structural Genomics proteins.
122 Hurtig Hall