Department of Pharmaceutical Biology

The Poelarends group

The group of Prof. Gerrit J. Poelarends has a strong (inter)national position in the area of enzyme discovery, characterization, promiscuity, engineering, and biocatalysis. The group has an innovative research program on C-N bond-forming lyases, promiscuous C-C bond-forming tautomerases, and cofactor-independent oxygenases. The group solved X-ray structures, catalytic mechanisms, and the basis of enantioselectivity of these enzymes, performed protein engineering studies aimed at improving their catalytic properties, and developed new biocatalytic conversions and cascades with these enzymes. Several projects are running in collaboration with industrial partners.

The Poelarends group is well equipped for molecular biology, enzymology, and biocatalysis work. The PI and his research group have direct access to fermenters and protein purification facilities, a robotic liquid handling station, 96/384-wells UV/VIS and fluorescence plate readers, instruments for UV/VIS and CD spectroscopy, gas chromatography and high performance liquid chromatography with on-line mass-spectrometry, crystallization and X-ray analysis, including a high-throughput nano-volume crystallization robot (collaboration with Dr. Andy-Mark Thunnissen), and advanced equipment for chemical synthesis, purification and analysis, including various NMR machines.

Prof. Poelarends has published almost 100 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. He was awarded prestigious personal NWO-VENI, NWO-VIDI, ERC-StG, and ERC-PoC research grants for his innovative enzymology work in 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2015, respectively. He is co-chair of a special symposium on “Experimental and Computational Advances in Understanding Enzyme Specificity and Promiscuity” for the ACS 2017 Physical Chemistry meeting, and selected chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Biocatalysis 2020.

Selected top publications

  1. Van der Meer, J.Y., Poddar, H., Baas, B.J., Miao, Y., Rahimi, M., Kunzendorf, A., van Merkerk, R., Tepper, P.G., Geertsema, E.M., Thunnissen, A.M.W.H., Quax, W.J., & Poelarends, G.J. (2016) Using mutability landscapes of a promiscuous tautomerase to guide the engineering of enantioselective Michaelases. Nature Communications 7:10911 doi: 10.1038/ncomms10911.
  2. Raj, H., Szymański, W., de Villiers, J., Rozeboom, H.J., Puthan Veetil, V., Reis, C.R., de Villiers, M., Dekker, F.J., de Wildeman, S., Quax, W.J., Thunnissen, A.-M.W.H., Feringa, B.L., Janssen, D.B., & Poelarends, G.J. (2012) Engineering methylaspartate ammonia lyase for the asymmetric synthesis of unnatural amino acids. Nature Chemistry 4:478-484.
  3. Zandvoort, E., Geertsema, E.M., Baas, B.J., Quax, W.J., & Poelarends, G.J. (2012) Bridging between organocatalysis and biocatalysis: asymmetric addition of acetaldehyde to β-nitrostyrenes catalyzed by a promiscuous proline-based tautomerase. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 51:1240-1243.