Sean Elliott

Professor of Chemistry

  • Title Professor of Chemistry
  • Education B.A., Amherst College
    Ph.D., California Institute of Technology

The combination of metal ions and electrons in biology affords the tremendous power of chemical transformation as well as the danger associated with non-specific redox reactivity. Nature has developed metalloenzymes to both produce startling biological catalysts for capturing and manipulating energy, as well as engaging in reactions that challenge the most talented synthetic chemist. The Elliott Group interrogates how nature harnesses the redox transformations made possible by cofactors and tunes the reactivity of metal ions to achieve startling and globally impactful chemical transformations.

We combine approaches of enzymology, microbiology, electrochemistry and spectroscopy to understand how Nature has tuned and exploited redox-active cofactors (heme iron, iron-sulfur clusters, molybdopterin, and others) in the context of metalloenzymes.

In the context of the AdoMet Radical Enzyme superfamily we probe how the same [4Fe-4S] clusters ubiquitous to all kingdoms of life are turned to generate the power radicals that are capable of thousands of distinct reactivities.

We examine the diversity of heme containing peroxidase enzymes, identifying novel enzymatic family members found in bacterial organisms that include known pathogens.

Finally, we are also focused upon the biological chemistry of sustainability, including CO2 reduction. On this topic, we engage in structure-function studies of specific enzymes, combining structural, electrochemical and spectroscopic tools to understand how nature achieve a bias toward CO2 reduction versus its generation.

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