Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Dr. Kathleen Rein

First Advisor's Committee Title

Major Professor

Second Advisor's Name

Dr. Watson Lees

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Dr. Kevin O'Shea

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dr. John Makemson

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Dr. Xiaotang Wang

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


brevetoxin, photoaffinity probe, red tide, NSP, labeling, alexa fluor, polyether ladder toxins, thiol-michael addition, diazirines, biotin, click chemistry, voltage-gated sodium channels

Date of Defense



A natural phenomenon characterized by dense aggregations of unicellular photosynthetic marine organisms has been termed colloquially as red tides because of the vivid discoloration of the water. The dinoflagellate Karenia brevis is the cause of the Florida red tide bloom.

K. brevis produces the brevetoxins, a potent suite of neurotoxins responsible for substantial amounts of marine mammal and fish mortalities. When consumed by humans, the toxin causes Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP). The native function of brevetoxin within the organism has remained mysterious since its discovery. There is a need to identify factors which contribute to and regulate toxin production within K. brevis. These toxins are produced and retained within the cell implicating a significant cellular role for their presence.

Localization of brevetoxin and identification of a native receptor may provide insight into its native role as well as other polyether ladder type toxins such as the ciguatoxins, maitotoxins, and yessotoxins. In higher organisms these polyether ladder molecules bind to transmembrane proteins with high affinity. We anticipated the native brevetoxin receptor would also be a transmembrane protein.

Photoaffinity labeling has become increasingly popular for identifying ligand receptors. By attaching ligands to these photophors, one is able to activate the molecule after the ligand binds to its receptor to obtain a permanent linkage between the two. Subsequent purification provides the protein with the ligand directly attached.

A molecule that is capable of fluorescence is a fluorophore, which upon excitation is capable of re-emitting light. Fluorescent labeling uses fluorophores by attaching them covalently to biologically active compounds.

The synthesis of a brevetoxin photoaffinity probe and its application in identifying a native brevetoxin receptor will be described. The preparation of a fluorescent derivative of brevetoxin will be described and its use in localizing the toxin to an organelle within K. brevis. In addition, the general utility of a synthesized photoaffinity label with other toxins having similar functionality will be described.

An alternative synthetic approach to a general photoaffinity label will also be discussed whose goal was to accelerate the preparation and improve the overall synthetic yields of a multifunctional label.





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