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  • Mark D. Distefano

    Lloyd Reyerson Professorship, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Distinguished University Teaching Professor

    • Chemical Biology, Protein Engineering
    • Organic Chemistry, Bioorganic Chemistry
    • B.S. Biochemistry and Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, 1984
    • Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1989
    • Post Doctorate California Institute of Technology, 1989-1992
    Office: 668C Kolthoff Hall

Principal Research Interests

Our group is interested in molecular recognition and catalysis in the context of proteins. Current research is focused on the process of protein prenylation, a key modification that occurs on proteins involved in cellular signaling. Part of the group is studying the enzymes responsible for this process with the ultimate goal of facilitating the development of new anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-viral agents. The other major focus concerns the use of protein prenylation to selectively modify proteins for therapeutic applications. Group members use a combination of small molecule- and macromolecule-based methods including organic synthesis, peptide chemistry, enzyme assays, proteomics, recombinant DNA methods and mammalian cell culture.


Synthetic probes used to study protein prenylation

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Mutant forms of farnesyltransferase used to study enzyme specificity

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Proteomic strategy to identify prenylated proteins.

Mark Distefano proteomics image


Cancer cells exhibiting normal characteristics after exposure to a photochemically activated drug

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Honors and Awards

  • Lloyd Reyerson Professorship, 2016
  • American Chemical Society Fellow, 2014
  • Distinguished McKnight University Professor, 2011
  • Merck Professor of Chemistry, 2011
  • Horace T. Morse-University of Minnesota Distinguished Teaching Professor, 2006
  • George W. Taylor/ITAS Award for Distinguished Teaching, 2004
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 1994
  • American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award, 1994
  • 3M Alumni Assistant Professor, 1992 

Mailing Address

  • Mark D. Distefano, University of Minnesota, Department of Chemistry
  • A-8, 139 Smith Hall, 207 Pleasant St SE
  • Minneapolis, MN 55455-0431