James Checco

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Date: Sunday, June 12, 2022
Talk Time: 11:20 am - 11:45 am
Talk Title: Chemical Approaches to Identify Cell-Cell Signaling Peptide Receptors

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison; B.A., St. Olaf College

2016-2019 Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellow

Our work focuses on understanding neuropeptides and peptide hormones that act as cell-to-cell signaling molecules. These biomolecules are important because their functions underlie critical biological processes and complex behaviors. Mimicking or antagonizing peptide-receptor interactions are critical strategies for understanding normal cell-to-cell communication and for treating diseases caused by signal dysregulation. Despite their importance in biology, the molecular-level details governing the signaling of many peptides are not well-understood. To address this challenge, the Checco Lab develops strategies to identify previously uncharacterized peptide-protein interactions, and to design novel compounds to modulate these interactions in a desired manner. From this work, our research will advance the understanding of specific cell-cell signaling pathways, identify new pathways for further exploration, and provide innovative starting points for future therapeutics.

Some active areas of research in the group include: Identifying the receptors for specific neuropeptides and peptide hormones involved in disease; Organic synthesis of complex peptides containing non-natural functional groups for use as chemical probes; Mass spectrometry-based identification and quantification of the processed forms of neuropeptides and peptide hormones from biological samples

Students and researchers in the Checco Lab gain expertise in a diverse set of synthetic, analytical, and biological techniques, including chemical peptide synthesis, mass spectrometry-based analysis of protein mixtures, cell culture, and cell-based signaling assays.

Small to medium sized peptides can act as signaling molecules to carry out complex tasks in living systems, and dysregulation of these signaling events often leads to disease. Characterizing the active forms and molecular-level interactions of endogenous neuropeptides and peptide hormones represents a significant goal to understand how living systems carry out physiological processes, for example, responding to stress, regulating bodily functions, and learning, and may help identify novel therapeutic targets.

Understanding cellular communication requires not only knowledge of the transmitter, that is, the peptide ligand, but also information regarding the cognate receptor that mediates signaling on the partner cell. However, there exist a relatively large number of biologically active peptides whose cell-surface receptor/s are not known, primarily because of a lack of techniques to reliably identify peptide receptors de novo.

Our group is developing new techniques to identify these receptors to better understand the molecular mechanisms of cellular communication. Our research combines approaches from chemical biology, synthetic chemistry, and bioanalytical chemistry to advance our understanding of specific cell-cell signaling pathways, identify new pathways for further exploration, and provide innovative starting points for future therapeutics.

James Checco, talk image 2

James Checco
James Checco, talk image 1
James Checco, talk image 3
James Checco, talk image 4