Biological Mass Spectrometry Society

Dr. Allegra Aron: Finding Metal-Binding Molecules: Native Electrospray-based Metabolomics and Beyond

  • 26 Apr 2023
  • 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
  • Room OLIN 105, F.W. Olin Hall 2190 E. Ilif Ave. Denver University


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Metals are required for life, and microbes have evolved a number of small molecules to compete for, acquire, and utilize metals. Metal-binding compounds are important in a number of fields – these compounds can alter the growth of the microbial communities, enhance plant yields, control harmful pathogens, deliver metals in diseases of deficiencies, or can be used for bioremediation. Systematic methods for the discovery of metal-small molecule complexes from biological samples remain limited. In this talk, I describe a native electrospray ionization mass spectrometry-based method, in which post-column metal-infusion and pH adjustment is combined with ion identity molecular networking, a rule-based informatics workflow performed using the Global Natural Products Social Molecular Networking (GNPS) platform. This method has been used to identify metal-binding molecules in complex samples based on defined mass (m/z) offsets of ion features with the same chromatographic profiles. As this native metal metabolomics approach can be easily implemented on any liquid chromatography-based mass spectrometer, this method has the potential to become a key strategy for elucidating and understanding the role of metal-binding molecules in biology. To finish my talk, I will move to a discussion of the newer methods that we have been developing and applying in my laboratory. 

Bio: Allegra T. Aron was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her undergraduate education at Brown University, where she majored in Chemistry and performed bioinorganic chemistry research in the laboratory of Dr. Eunsuk Kim. As an undergraduate, Allegra aimed to develop biomimetic carbon dioxide reduction catalysts based on formate dehydrogenase enzymes, and she received two Undergraduate Research and Teaching awards for this work. Allegra then moved to the University of California, Berkeley for her graduate studies. Here, she explored interdisciplinary approaches to studying metal homeostasis in cells and animals as an NSF graduate fellow in Professor Christopher J Chang’s group. As a graduate student, Allegra developed the first ratiometric and bioluminescent sensors for ferrous iron. She was a recipient of the WCC Merck Research Award. For her postdoctoral training, Allegra moved to University of California, San Diego to develop new strategies for finding novel metal-binding small molecules. Since starting her postdoctoral fellowship, Allegra has received numerous travel awards and invitations, including an ASMS Fall Workshop Travel Award and invited seminars at Oakridge National Laboratories and at University of California, Los Angeles. When she is not working in the laboratory, Allegra enjoys rock climbing, skiing, and baking sourdough bread. Allegra is very excited to share her work spanning chemical biology, analytical and bioinorganic chemistry, and how mass spectrometry can inform these fields. 

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