John C Jewett

John C Jewett

Associate Professor, BIO5 Institute
Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry-Sci
Member of the Graduate Faculty
Primary Department
(520) 626-3627

Work Summary

Work Summary
We seek to develop tools and strategies to expedite the understanding and treatment of the dengue virus. These advances will be transferable to other areas of virology and biochemistry. Along these lines, we are engaged in three core synergistic projects to answer the following questions: (1) Do unnatural metabolites incorporated into DENV serve as reporters for host-pathogen interactions? (2) What are the host-pathogen interactions in DENV that are targetable for diagnosis or treatment? (3) Is there a chemical reaction between two small molecules that reports on the interaction between DENV and host proteins?

Research Interest

Research Interest
Our goal is to merge the fields of synthetic organic chemistry with virology. We develop new reactions (and re-appropriate old ones) to gain insight into how viruses infects new host cells. Additionally, we are working to develop new methods to probe protein-protein interactions through the use of small molecules.Viruses can rapidly evolve and new tools are required to meet this ever-changing threat. While vaccinations have tamed many historically deadly viral diseases, there are still rogue viruses for which no vaccination strategy is available. Dengue virus (DENV), the virus that is responsible for dengue fever, hemorrhagic fever, and shock syndrome, is one such pathogen. The WHO estimates that the mosquito-borne pathogen infects over 50 million people each year. With a rapid increase in severe, potentially fatal, disease forms, DENV poses a significant risk to the 2.5 billion people who live in DENV endemic regions.


Moncarz, J. R., Brunker, T. J., Jewett, J. C., Orchowski, M., Glueck, D. S., Sommer, R. D., Lam, K., Incarvito, C. D., Concolino, T. E., Ceccarelli, C., Zakharov, L. N., & Rheingold, A. L. (2003). Palladium-catalyzed asymmetric phosphination. Enantioselective synthesis of PAMP-BH3, ligand effects on catalysis, and direct observation of the stereochemistry of transmetalation and reductive elimination. Organometallics, 22(16), 3205-3221.


The complexes Pd(diphos)(o-An)(I) (o-An = o-MeOC6H4; diphos = dppe (3), (S,S)-Chiraphos (4), (R,R)-Me-Duphos (5), (R,S) -t-Bu-Josiphos (6), (R)-Tol-Binap (7)) were prepared. Complex 6 catalyzed the coupling of PH(Me)(Ph)(BH3) (2) with o-AnI in the presence of base to yield PAMP-BH3 (P(Me)(Ph)(o-An)(BH3) (1)) in low enantiomeric excess. The course of stoichiometric reactions of 3-7 with 2 and NaOSiMe3 depended on the diphosphine ligand. Complexes 6 and 7 gave PAMP-BH3 (1) and Pd(0) species; no intermediates were observed. With 3, the intermediate Pd(dppe)(o-An)(P(Me)(Ph)(BH3)) (10) was observed by 31P NMR, while 4 gave the isolable diastereomeric palladium complexes (Sp)-Pd((S,S)-Chiraphos)(o-An)(P(Me)(Ph)(BH3)) (11a) and (RP)-Pd((S,S)-Chiraphos)(o-An)(P(Me)(Ph)(BH3)) (11b), whose absolute configurations were determined by X-ray crystallography after separation. The analogous Pd((R,R)-Me-Duphos)(o-An)(P(Me)(Ph)(BH3)) diastereomers (12a,b) were also separated and isolated. Treatment of 4 with highly enantioenriched 2 (R or S) gave 11a or 11b in high diastereomeric excess with retention of configuration at phosphorus. P-C reductive elimination from either isomer of highly diastereoenriched 11 in the presence of excess diphenylacetylene yielded Pd((S,S)-Chiraphos)(PhC≡CPh) (14) and highly enantioenriched PAMP-BH3 (1), with retention of configuration.

Dang, Y., Schneider-Poetsch, T., Eyler, D. E., Jewett, J. C., Bhat, S., Rawal, V. H., Green, R., & Liu, J. O. (2011). Inhibition of eukaryotic translation elongation by the antitumor natural product Mycalamide B. RNA, 17(8), 1578-1588.

PMID: 21693620;PMCID: PMC3153980;Abstract:

Mycalamide B (MycB) is a marine sponge-derived natural product with potent antitumor activity. Although it has been shown to inhibit protein synthesis, the molecular mechanism of action by MycB remains incompletely understood. We verified the inhibition of translation elongation by in vitro HCV IRES dual luciferase assays, ribosome assembly, and in vivo [ 35S]methinione labeling experiments. Similar to cycloheximide (CHX), MycB inhibits translation elongation through blockade of eEF2-mediated translocation without affecting the eEF1A-mediated loading of tRNA onto the ribosome, AUG recognition, or dipeptide synthesis. Using chemical footprinting, we identified the MycB binding site proximal to the C3993 28S rRNA residue on the large ribosomal subunit. However, there are also subtle, but significant differences in the detailed mechanisms of action of MycB and CHX. First, MycB arrests the ribosome on the mRNA one codon ahead of CHX. Second, MycB specifically blocked tRNA binding to the E-site of the large ribosomal subunit. Moreover, they display different polysome profiles in vivo. Together, these observations shed new light on the mechanism of inhibition of translation elongation by MycB. Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. Copyright © 2011 RNA Society.

Knyazeva, D. C., Kimani, F. W., Blanche, J., & Jewett, J. C. (2017). Hexyl triazabutadiene as a potent alkylating agent. TETRAHEDRON LETTERS, 58(28), 2700-2702.
Gordon, C. G., MacKey, J. L., Jewett, J. C., Sletten, E. M., Houk, K. N., & Bertozzi, C. R. (2012). Reactivity of biarylazacyclooctynones in copper-free click chemistry. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 134(22), 9199-9208.

PMID: 22553995;PMCID: PMC3368396;Abstract:

The 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition of cyclooctynes with azides, also called "copper-free click chemistry", is a bioorthogonal reaction with widespread applications in biological discovery. The kinetics of this reaction are of paramount importance for studies of dynamic processes, particularly in living subjects. Here we performed a systematic analysis of the effects of strain and electronics on the reactivity of cyclooctynes with azides through both experimental measurements and computational studies using a density functional theory (DFT) distortion/interaction transition state model. In particular, we focused on biarylazacyclooctynone (BARAC) because it reacts with azides faster than any other reported cyclooctyne and its modular synthesis facilitated rapid access to analogues. We found that substituents on BARACs aryl rings can alter the calculated transition state interaction energy of the cycloaddition through electronic effects or the calculated distortion energy through steric effects. Experimental data confirmed that electronic perturbation of BARACs aryl rings has a modest effect on reaction rate, whereas steric hindrance in the transition state can significantly retard the reaction. Drawing on these results, we analyzed the relationship between alkyne bond angles, which we determined using X-ray crystallography, and reactivity, quantified by experimental second-order rate constants, for a range of cyclooctynes. Our results suggest a correlation between decreased alkyne bond angle and increased cyclooctyne reactivity. Finally, we obtained structural and computational data that revealed the relationship between the conformation of BARACs central lactam and compound reactivity. Collectively, these results indicate that the distortion/interaction model combined with bond angle analysis will enable predictions of cyclooctyne reactivity and the rational design of new reagents for copper-free click chemistry. © 2012 American Chemical Society.

Jewett, J. C., & Bertozzi, C. R. (2011). Synthesis of a fluorogenic cyclooctyne activated by Cu-free click chemistry. Organic Letters, 13(22), 5937-5939.

PMID: 22029411;PMCID: PMC3219546;Abstract:

Cyclooctyne-based probes that become fluorescent upon reaction with azides are important targets for real-time imaging of azide-labeled biomolecules. The concise synthesis of a coumarin-conjugated cyclooctyne, coumBARAC, that undergoes a 10-fold enhancement in fluorescence quantum yield upon triazole formation with organic azides is reported. The design principles embodied in coumBARAC establish a platform for generating fluorogenic cyclooctynes suited for biological imaging. © 2011 American Chemical Society.