Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Andrew L. Feig

Second Advisor

G. Andrés Cisneros


This work describes the fundamental study of two bacterial toxins with computational methods, the rational design of a potent inhibitor using molecular dynamics, as well as the development of two bioinformatic methods for mining genomic data.

Clostridium difficile is an opportunistic bacillus which produces two large glucosylating toxins. These toxins, TcdA and TcdB cause severe intestinal damage. As Clostridium difficile harbors considerable antibiotic resistance, one treatment strategy is to prevent the tissue damage that the toxins cause. The catalytic glucosyltransferase domain of TcdA and TcdB was studied using molecular dynamics in the presence of both a protein-protein binding partner and several substrates. These experiments were combined with lead optimization techniques to create a potent irreversible inhibitor which protects 95% of cells in vitro. Dynamics studies on a TcdB cysteine protease domain were performed to an allosteric communication pathway. Comparative analysis of the static and dynamic properties of the TcdA and TcdB glucosyltransferase domains were carried out to determine the basis for the differential lethality of these toxins.

Large scale biological data is readily available in the post-genomic era, but it can be difficult to effectively use that data. Two bioinformatics methods were developed to process whole-genome data. Software was developed to return all genes containing a motif in single genome. This provides a list of genes which may be within the same regulatory network or targeted by a specific DNA binding factor. A second bioinformatic method was created to link the data from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to specific genes. GWAS studies are frequently subjected to statistical analysis, but mutations are rarely investigated structurally. HyDn-SNP-S allows a researcher to find mutations in a gene that correlate to a GWAS studied phenotype. Across human DNA polymerases, this resulted in strongly predictive haplotypes for breast and prostate cancer. Molecular dynamics applied to DNA Polymerase Lambda suggested a structural explanation for the decrease in polymerase fidelity with that mutant. When applied to Histone Deacetylases, mutations were found that alter substrate binding, and post-translational modification.

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toxin2.wmv (93038 kB)
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CPDMovie.wmv (105285 kB)
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