Department of Medicinal Chemistry

Mark Distefano, Ph.D.

COP - Image - Size 3 - Distefano Mark
    Chemistry (Graduate Faculty in Medicinal Chemistry)
    Distinguished McKnight Professor and Merck Professor of Chemistry and Medicinal Chemistry, Department of Chemistry
  • Graduate Faculty Medicinal Chemistry
  • B.A.
    Univeristy of California, Berkley (1984)
  • Ph.D.
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1989)

  • Postdoc
    California Institute of Technology (1989-1992)
  • Enzymology
  • Protein Chemistry
  • Peptide Chemistry
  • Protein Prenylation
  • Photochemistry
  • 668C Kolthoff Hall

About Mark Distefano, Ph.D.

Research in the Distefano group focuses on the use of organic chemistry to provide insight into mechanism and function in biological systems. Several projects are currently being investigated including (1) mechanism and function of protein prenylation (2) rubber biosynthesis (3) illudin biosynthesis (4) protein-based catalyst design and (5) development of methods for selective protein modification. Two themes unite this diverse range of topics. The
protein prenylation, rubber biosynthesis and illudin biosynthesis projects center around the use farnesyl diphosphate and analogues thereof. The goals of these projects are to identify the enzymes involved in these processes and to understand their chemical mechanisms for the purposes of designing new
therapeutic agents or biocatalytic processes. The catalyst design and protein modification projects both involve the use covalent modification techniques to prepare proteins with either novel catalytic or physical properties. Researchers in the Distefano group use a combination of organic synthesis, protein purification, enzymology and biophysical techniques as they work on these projects. Numerous collaborations are in place with other groups both at the University of Minnesota and other academic and industrial institutions to accomplish the interdisciplinary goals of these projects.


Distinguished McKnight Professor, 2011
Merck Professor of Chemistry, 2011
Horace T. Morse–University of Minnesota Alumni Award, 2006
George W. Taylor/ITAS Award for Distinguished Teaching, 2004
American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award, 1994
National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 1994


Published Works

1. Mullen, D.; Kyro, K.; Hauser, M.; Becker, J. M.; Naider, F.; Distefano, M. D. Synthesis of a-factor peptide from Saccharomyces cerevisiae and photoactive analogues via Fmoc solid phase
methodology. Biorg. Med. Chem. 2011, 19, 490.
2. Rashidian, M.; Dozier, J. K.; Lenevich, S.; Distefano, M. D. Selective Labeling of Polypeptides Using Protein Farnesyltransferase via Rapid Oxime Ligation. Chem. Comm. 2010, 46, 8998. PMID:
3. DeGraw, A. J.; Palsuledesai, C.; Ochocki, J. D.; Dozier, J. K.; Lenevich, S.; Rashidian, M.; Distefano, M. D. Evaluation of alkyne-modified isoprenoids as chemical reporters of protein prenylation. Chem.
Bio. Drug. Des. 2010, 76, 460.
4. Wollack, J.; Silvermann, J.; Petzold, C.; Mougous, J.; Distefano, M. D., A Minimalist Substrate for Enzymatic Peptide and Protein Conjugation. ChemBiochem 2009, 10, 2934-2943.
5. Duckworth, B. P.; Chen, Y.; Sham, Y.; Mueller, J. D.; Taton, T. A.; Distefano, M. D., A Universal Method for the Preparation of Covalent Protein-DNA Conjugates for Use in Creating Protein Nanostructures. Angew. Chemie (Int. Ed) 2007, 46, 8819-8822.

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  • Last modified on April 8, 2015