Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type






First Advisor

Dr. H. Peter Spielmann


Protein farnesylation is an essential post-translational modification required for the function of numerous cellular proteins including the oncoprotein Ras. The farnesyl transferase (FTase) catalyzed reaction is unique because farnesyl diphosphate (FPP), the farnesyl group donor for the reaction, forms a significant portion of a target protein binding site. The major goal of this research was to exploit this unique property of the FTase reaction and determine if changing the structure of the farnesyl donor group would affect FTase protein targeting. A small library of structural analogues of FPP was synthesized. Michelis-Menten steady-state kinetic analyses and competition reactions were used to determine the effect of these structural modifications on FTase targeting. We found that the analogues did affect FTase protein selectivity and that this could be exploited to induce unnatural target selectivity into the enzyme.

The second goal of this research was to determine the effect of FPP analogues on the function of FTase target proteins. To test the effect of these analogues we determined whether the unnatural lipid could ablate oncogenic H-Ras biological function in a Xenopus laevis model system. Several analogues were able to disrupt oncogenic H-Ras function while others mimicked the activity of FPP. These results indicated that some of the FPP analogues may act a prenyl group function inhibitors that could lead to an important new class of anti-cancer therapeutics.

Another major goal of this research was to use the FPP analogues as unnatural probes for the endogenous cellular activity of FTase target proteins. We developed antibodies to two of the unnatural FPP analogues to study their activity in cell cultureUtilizing these antibodies we found that alcohol prodrugs of the FPP analogues could be incorporated into cellular proteins in an FTase dependent manner. The ability of cell permeant analogues to be incorporated into live cells enhances the chances that such a molecule could be used to modify oncogenic cellular proteins with a prenyl group function inhibitor.