IPiB Thesis Defense July 20, 2023: Anthony Meza

Photo of Tony MezaAnthony (Tony) Meza, an IPiB graduate student, will be defending his Ph.D. research on July 20, 2023.

A member of the Buller Lab, Meza’s research focuses on enzymatic mechanisms that can be used in the synthesis and production of non-standard amino acids.

“I love being able to really explore enzymes’ mechanisms,” says Meza, “the unique reactive features that allow us to utilize enzymes in really versatile ways.”

His interest in enzymes has led him to explore a unique carbon nucleophile — an intermediate enzymatic molecule that is unusually stable. The carbon nucleophile intermediate is especially versatile for synthesizing non-standard amino acids because it reacts with multiple aldehyde and ketone electrophiles, resulting in a new amino acid side chain.

The products of these enzymatic reactions yield novel non-standard amino acids which can be used as therapeutic peptides – synthetic peptides which can bind to receptors in cell membranes to yield targeted, medically therapeutic results.

Meza traces his interest in enzyme function back to his time as an undergraduate at Arizona State University, where he majored in medicinal biochemistry. “When I started studying medicinal biochemistry,” Meza says, “I learned about how small molecules can have massive impacts on proteins and protein function. And then I learned about enzymes, which bind to a small molecule and either break it down or transform it into another molecule. I wanted a graduate program where I could study protein engineering and learn about how to use enzymes for biocatalysis.”

It was clear to Meza that he would find exemplary training in mechanical enzymology in the Buller Lab. But just as big a draw was the IPiB community. “When I interviewed here, the IPiB community was just great,” recalls Meza. “I was sold on the science from the beginning, but when I got here the students were just so welcoming.”

In addition to bonding with his IPiB cohort, Meza was a member of the Chemistry-Biology Interface Training Program and the Science and Medicine Graduate Research Scholars program.

Meza’s research has been published in American Chemical Society Chemical Biology and American Chemical Society Catalysis. After graduating, Meza plans to pursue an industry-based career in biocatalysis.

To learn more about Meza’s research, attend his Ph.D. defense, “Characterization of a C-nucleophilic Intermediate for the Biocatalytic Synthesis of B-hydroxyl-amino-acids,” on Thursday, July 20, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. CT in Room 1211 of the Hector F. DeLuca Biochemical Sciences Building.