Martina Lahmann is working at the Organic Chemistry/Life Science interface (Chemical Biology). Her expertise is in organic synthesis, carbohydrate and glycoconjugate chemistry.
Martina received her diploma in Chemistry at the University of Hamburg, Germany, in 1994. She continued her work in the group of Prof. Joachim Thiem and obtained her Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry in 1997. Thereafter she moved to Stockholm University, Sweden, to work as a postdoc with Prof. Per J. Garegg and Prof. Stefan Oscarson. In 2002 she moved to Göteborg University, Sweden, to supervise the part of Stefan’s group which was relocated to Göteborg University, to lecture Organic Chemistry, and then to develop her independent research. In September 2005 she received the Docent degree in Organic Chemistry from Göteborg University. After a year in the Arrhenius Laboratory at Stockholm University, focussing on her research, Martina joined us at Bangor in September 2007.
The major focus on her current research comprises the development of new tools and structures for the identification and analysis of carbohydrate recognition domains, directing to a deeper understanding of carbohydrate-protein interactions on the molecular level, which eventually allows a more rational design and development of carbohydrate-based pharmaceuticals. Adhesion of bacteria to human glycoconjugate receptors is a crucial step in the development of many diseases and is often mediated by carbohydrate-protein interactions. As model system, she focuses on the binding of Helicobacter pylori (collaborators S. Oscarson, University College Dublin, and T. Borén, University of Umeå) which induces chronic inflammation by attaching itself to carbohydrate structures in the stomach lining. Another bacterial target is the uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC), accounting for more than 80 % of urinary tract infections. To inhibit the adhesion of bacteria to the bladder is proposed to be an alternative approach to challenge antibiotic resistance. Transferred to the lab-bench this spans from “plain” oligosaccharide synthesis (e.g. Lewis-blood group structures), variously tagged carbohydrate structures (e.g. photolabeling, selenoglycosides) to designed conjugates (e.g. glycocluster, dendrimers).
The exploration of glycosylation reactions, e.g. solvent dependency, and the development of protecting group- and conjugation techniques represents another research-area.
Welcome to the Carbohydrate Lab!
In our laboratory almost everything orbits carbohydrates. Carbohydrates represent - also outside the lab - the most abundant family of nature products.
Everybody has probably heard about
- their role as energy storage, e.g. as sucrose A - in everyday language just called ‘sugar’,
- their capability supporting tissue in plants, e.g., cellulose B helps building up even the largest trees,
- their ability in keeping many arthropods (as insects, spiders and crustaceans) protected in their sometimes pretty hard ‘skin’, e.g., the lobster’s shell consist mainly of a polysaccharide called chitin C.
However, complex oligosaccharide structures are essential to get biological systems working and carbohydrate structures placed e.g. on the outside of a cell-wall can behave both as flypaper and as signpost for other bio molecules. Two examples:
- the “ABO-blood-groups” are assigned by carbohydrate structures present on the surface of (red blood) cells
- too old red blood cells are sorted out by the liver if they present too little sialic acids (certain carbohydrates) on their surface (because the red blood cells loose them when getting older)
As more as we understand the relevance of carbohydrates and their conjugates, the interest in possible pharmaceutical applications is growing (e.g. development of vaccines). However, compared to peptides the construction of oligosaccharides is not as automated and still often governed by ‘trial and error’.
At this point our research begins:
Our general aim is it to understand the chemistry of carbohydrates as much as possible by studying glycosylation reactions and the development of protecting group-techniques. By doing this, we produce many biologically interesting compounds which are further examined by biochemists and biologists. Since ‘naked’ oligosaccharides are usually too small to produce a response in a biological system, we have to ‘inflate’ them by connecting them to carrier, e.g. proteins. In other cases it is useful to bunch several copies of the carbohydrate structures together by preparing glycoclusters or glycodendrimers. Thus, conjugation of carbohydrate structures via various spacer molecules to a carrier is another area of our research.
Some introductionary reading:
Architectures of Multivalent Glycomimetics for Probing Carbohydrate-Lectin Interactions.
Top. Curr. Chem. 288 (2009), 17-65.
In: "Glycoscience and Microbial Adhesion", Th. K. Lindhorst, St. Oscarson (Eds.), Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg 2009.