Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Li-JJune Ming, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Merkler, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jainfaing Cai, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Xiao, Li, Ph.D.


beta amyloid, bioinorganic chemsitry, DNA cleavage, metallopeptide models, NMR, structure elucidation


Structural and mechanistic complexities of copper-dioxygen systems have attracted much attention in the field of bioinorganic chemistry, both in model systems and trapped protein intermediates. The research presented herein is focused on model and naturally occurring metallopeptide systems, from its design to catalysis. Copper is used as the coordinating metal ion, with cobalt and zinc as probes for metal binding. The bioinorganic chemistry of copper proteins and its coordination and spectroscopic properties are briefly discussed in chapter 1. The next two chapters are centered on the de novo design of a minimalistic metallopeptide system with an amino acid sequence of RHHPPHHE. Structural characterization of the peptide by means of CD and NMR spectroscopy techniques are presented in chapter 2, suggesting a characteristic beta-turn structure in its apo and di-metal bound form. The designed metallopeptide exhibits catecholase activity, which is presented in chapter 3. The data suggest the presence of two mononuclear copper active sites, exhibiting specificity towards the oxidation of catecholamine substrates. Similarly, the catecholase activity has been previously observed in copper complexes of Alzheimer's disease related peptide beta-amyloid, exhibiting metal-centered redox chemistry. The metallo-(beta-amyloid); complexes are the hallmark Alzheimer's disease and have been attributed to the generation of reactive oxygen species causing oxidative stress. Thus, inhibition of the observed oxidative activities was investigated. Probing the role of phosphate moieties in various compounds as potential inhibitors against the induced oxidative stress is presented in chapter 4. The phosphate analogs of the studied compounds exhibit more pronounced potency, where mutation of the beta amyloid peptide at Arg-5 and Lys-16 give insight into the interactions of the side chains of Arg and Lys with the phosphate moiety. 31P NMR relaxation studies further support the binding/interaction of phosphate with the Cu(II)-(beta-amyloid); complexes. The correlation of phosphate moiety binding/activity will allow for the design of more potent inhibitors toward the Cu(II)-(beta-amyloid); induced oxidative stress.