Research in the Raj Group takes place at the interface between the fields of organic synthesis, bioorganic chemistry, and catalysis. We are interested in utilizing organic chemistry tools to solve problems in the field of biology. Our focus is the development of new chemical reactions, catalysis, and ligation methodologies for the synthesis of biological molecules.

The Raj Group is growing and we are always seeking chemists who love proteins to join us! Currently, we have an open position for a postdoctoral scholar. We are also accepting graduate students through the rotation program in the Emory University Department of Chemistry. Interested scholars at all levels, including undergraduate researchers, are encouraged to contact Monika.

Lysine methylation is one of the most important post-translational modifications (PTMs) of proteins as it regulates various biological processes including cell growth, division, gene expression and DNA/RNA binding. Due to lysine’s unique structure, it has the ability to undergo mono-, di-, and tri-methylation, and different degrees of methylation result in different functions and locations within a cell. Disregulation in lysine methylation leads to variety of diseases. There is great interest in delineating the global role of methylated lysine PTMs in diseases. We estimate that the size of the lysine methyl proteome is significantly larger than what is currently known. Therefore, it is important to discover complete sites of lysine methyl proteome and associated PPIs to fully understand their functions. Our group has developed different chemical reactions to profile the different states of lysine methylation.

Aldehydes are classified as cytotoxic because they damage DNA and proteins by forming interstrand cross-link in human cells. The human body tightly regulates the concentration of aldehydes by aldehyde dehydrogenases that convert toxic aldehydes to nontoxic acids. The mutation in the enzyme ALDH2*2 (present in approximately ~ 0.6 billion people worldwide) leads to accumulation of toxic aldehydes thus contribute to a variety of human diseases including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, and cancer. Despite the cytotoxicity associated with aldehydes, there are no pharmaceuticals available to eradicate these molecules. This is largely due to the lack of methods to measure the levels of multiple alkyl aldehydes in cells. The main goal of this research proposal is to fill the present gap in the range of available techniques to measure aldehyde levels in cells and the development of new therapeutics. We seek to develop a new family of chemical sensors to measure the total aldehyde levels inside the cell and the concentrations of individual aldehydes.