My research uses computational, synthetic, and spectroscopic methods to investigate the structure and behavior of peptides and the enzymes that degrade them. The goal of this work is to better understand the properties, activity, and therapeutic potential of these species.
In the first project, we study the structure and dynamic behavior of cyclic tetrapeptides to develop improved modulators of the opioid receptors for treatment of pain and/or addiction, two unmet medical needs. Cyclic tetrapeptides possess a unique molecular scaffold that imparts drug-like properties not typically seen in peptides, including (a) stability to degradation by peptidases/proteases as well as (b) oral bioavailability and (c) blood-brain barrier permeability. We use chemical synthesis, NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, and molecular modeling to better understand the structure and dynamic behavior of cyclic tetrapeptides to rationalize and improve their opioid activity.
In the second project, we study O-glycoprotease enzymes to better understand their structure, function, role in disease, and potential as drug targets. O-glycoproteases are produced by bacteria and are capable of degrading host O-glycoproteins, including those that comprise the protective mucus barrier lining the gastrointestinal tract. These enzymes are unusual in that they degrade glycosylated proteins but not their nonglycosylated analogs; the details of their unique substrate specificity are only now becoming clearer. We use molecular modeling to investigate O-glycoprotease structure and substrate recognition to better understand their specificity and potential as drug targets.
Both projects are highly collaborative, involving peers at institutions across the country. Research performed at Redlands is designed to produce meaningful science while providing practical research experience for undergraduate students interested in chemistry, biochemistry, medicine, or pharmacy.
· Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Redlands
· Post-Doctoral Associate, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Florida
Shon, D.; Kuo, A.; Ferracane, M.; Malaker, S. Classification, structural biology, and applications of mucin-targeting proteases. Biochem. J. 2021, 478, 1585-1603 https://doi.org/10.1042/BCJ20200607
Gisemba, S.; Ferracane, M.; Murray, T.; Aldrich, J. Conformational Constraint between Aromatic Residue Side Chains in the “Message” Sequence of the Peptide Arodyn Using Ring Closing Metathesis Results in a Potent and Selective Kappa Opioid Receptor Antagonist. J. Med. Chem. 2021, 64, 3153-3164 https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jmedchem.0c01984
Haurat, M.; Scott, N.; Di Venanzio, G.; Lopez, J.; Pluvinage, B.; Boraston, A.; Ferracane, M.; Feldman, M. The glycoprotease CpaA secreted by medically relevant Acinetobacter species targets multiple O-linked host glycoproteins. mBio 2020, 11, e02033-20 https://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.02033-20
Brice-Tutt, A.; Wilson, L.; Eans, S.; Stacy, H.; Simons, C.; Simpson, G.; Coleman, J.; Ferracane, M.; Aldrich, J.; McLaughlin, J. Multifunctional Opioid Receptor Agonism and Antagonism by a Novel Macrocyclic Tetrapeptide Prevents Reinstatement of Morphine-Seeking Behavior. Br. J. Pharmacol. 2020, 177, 4209-4222 https://doi.org/10.1111/bph.15165
Ferracane. M.; Brice-Tutt, A.; Coleman, J.; Simpson, G.; Wilson, L.; Eans, S.; Stacy, H.; Murray, T.; McLaughlin, J.; Aldrich, J. Design, Synthesis, and Characterization of the Macrocyclic Tetrapeptide cyclo[Pro-Sar-Phe-d-Phe]: a Mixed Opioid Receptor Agonist-Antagonist Following Oral Administration. ACS Chem. Neurosci. 2020, 11, 1324-1336 https://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acschemneuro.0c00086
Malaker, S.; Pedram, K.; Ferracane, M.; Bensing, B.; Krishnan, V.; Pett, C.; Yu, J.; Woods, E.; Kramer, J.; Westerlind, U.; Dorigo, O.; Bertozzi, C. The mucin-selective protease StcE enables molecular and functional analysis of human cancer-associated mucins. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2019, 116, 7278-7287 https://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1813020116
Malaker, S.; Ferracane, M.; Depontieu, F.; Zarling, A.; Shabanowitz, J.; Bai, D.; Engelhard, V.; Topalian, S.; Hunt, D. Identification and characterization of complex glycosylated peptides presented by the MHC class II processing pathway in melanoma. J. Prot. Res. 2017, 16, 228-237 http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.jproteome.6b00496
Lefever, M.; Szabo, L.; Anglin, B.; Ferracane, M.; Hogan, J.; Cooney, L.; Polt, R. Glycosylation of α-amino acids by sugar acetate donors with InBr3. Minimally competent Lewis acids. Carb. Res. 2012, 351, 121-125 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.carres.2012.01.008
Malaker, S.; Ferracane, M. Mass Spectrometric Identification and Molecular Modeling of Glycopeptides Presented by MHC Class I and II Processing Pathways. In Immunoproteomics: Methods and Protocols, 2nd ed.; Fulton, K., Twine, S., Eds.; Methods in Molecular Biology; Humana: New York, 2019; 2024, pp 269-285 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-9597-4_17
Aldrich, J.; Ferracane, M. Novel Macrocyclic Opioid Peptides. U.S. Patent Application 62/658,915, April 17, 2018
· Bert L. Schram Young Investigator Award – 2015
· Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award – 2014
· Alumni Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research – 2007
· American Chemical Society
· American Peptide Society
· Council on Undergraduate Research