166 Roger Adams Lab, Box 67-5, M/C 712
600 S. Matthews Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801
Professor Mehta received his B.Tech. from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai and his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. After his postdoctoral training with Prof. Peter G. Schultz at The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, ProfessorMehta joined the University of Illinois faculty in 2019. His research interests are in the areas of chemical biology, biochemistry and synthetic biology.
Synthetic and bioengineering platforms to: (i) recapitulate eukaryotic cell evolution, particularly, organelle evolution, (ii) develop synthetic tools for genome editing and (iii) develop synthetic biochemical pathways by directed evolution and metabolic engineering.
Engineering endosymbionts to study evolution and develop biologics:
Chloroplasts are the key photosynthetic organelles in plants and green algal cells, and thereby an integral part of the global ecosystem. Several advances have been made in understanding the structure and function of chloroplast; however, there is a minimal understanding (if any) of chloroplast evolved from cyanobacterial endosymbionts. We are developing model systems to study chloroplast evolution by generating cyanobacterial endosymbionts within eukaryotic cells. Our studies focus on recapitulating various stages of chloroplast evolution including but not limited to (i) cyanobacterial endosymbiont genome minimization, (ii) engineer cyanobacterial endosymbionts to secrete photosynthetic end-products, (iii) develop strategies to facilitate protein exchange between the endosymbiont and host and (iv) mutation-based evolution and selection. To the best of our knowledge, such an experimental recapitulation of chloroplast evolution starting from cyanobacterial endosymbionts has not been reported before. These studies are expected to provide insights into the evolution of structure/function of complex organelles in eukaryotic cells. Further, we plan on expanding this platform for various biomedical applications.
Develop synthetic biochemical pathways:
Antibiotics have been effectively used for decades to treat bacterial infections. However, the emergence of multidrug resistant bacteria has posed a significant challenge to develop new antibiotics. While several ongoing efforts focus on developing new antibiotics, the National Vaccine Advisory Committee has also suggested developing vaccines to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria. To this end, we will develop live bacterial vaccine candidates by making "synthetic" organisms derived from virulent bacteria. Our approach will be to: (i) build synthetic, orthogonal biochemical pathways essential for growth in derivatives of virulent bacteria and (ii) test these rationally designed and evolved "synthetic" organisms as live bacterial vaccine candidates.
Awards and Honors
Dow Chemical Scholar Award, 2014
Young Innovator's Choice Competition Award, 2008
Mehta, A. P., Ko, Y., Supekova, L., Pestonjamasp, K., Li, J., & Schultz, P. G. (2019). Toward a Synthetic Yeast Endosymbiont with a Minimal Genome. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 141(35), 13799-13802. https://doi.org/10.1021/jacs.9b08290
Gagnon, D. M., Stich, T. A., Mehta, A. P., Abdelwahed, S. H., Begley, T. P., & Britt, R. D. (2018). An Aminoimidazole Radical Intermediate in the Anaerobic Biosynthesis of the 5,6-Dimethylbenzimidazole Ligand to Vitamin B12. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 140(40), 12798-12807. https://doi.org/10.1021/jacs.8b05686
Li, J. C., Liu, T., Wang, Y., Mehta, A. P., & Schultz, P. G. (2018). Enhancing Protein Stability with Genetically Encoded Noncanonical Amino Acids. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 140(47), 15997-16000. https://doi.org/10.1021/jacs.8b07157
Mehta, A. P., Wang, Y., Reed, S. A., Supekova, L., Javahishvili, T., Chaput, J. C., & Schultz, P. G. (2018). Bacterial Genome Containing Chimeric DNA-RNA Sequences. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 140(36), 11464-11473. https://doi.org/10.1021/jacs.8b07046
Mehta, A. P., Supekova, L., Chen, J. H., Pestonjamasp, K., Webster, P., Ko, Y., Henderson, S. C., McDermott, G., Supek, F., & Schultz, P. G. (2018). Engineering yeast endosymbionts as a step toward the evolution of mitochondria. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(46), 11796-11801. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1813143115