Robin Polt

Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Degrees and Appointments 

  • B.S. 1981, Indiana U.-Purdue U. Indianapolis
  • Ph.D. 1986, Columbia University, NYC
  • Postdoctoral Fellow 1986-1988, ETH, Zurich, Switzerland

Field of Study: BiochemistryOrganic Chemistry

Awards and Honors

  • NSF Rotator, 2002-2003
  • Public Health Service Postdoctoral Fellow, 1986-1988
  • National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, 1981-1984

Research Specialties: Bioorganic, Chemical Biology, Metabolism, Signaling, and Regulation, Protein and Membrane Biochemistry, Synthesis/Synthetic Methods Development


Cell-surface carbohydrates (glycoproteins & glycolipids) have achieved a prominent place during the past two decades, giving rise to the new discipline of "glycobiology." Cell-surface carbohydrates play decisive roles during mammalian fertilization, embryogenesis, normal cellular differentiation and regulation, as well as critical roles in malignancy, tumor growth, and tumor cell metastasis. The vertebrate nervous system seems to be a special beneficiary of the cell-cell communication afforded by glycoconjugates, and one area of interest for us is the study of gangliosides and other glycolipids which may be useful in probing neuronal development, the formation of synapses, cell confluence in lung tissue, and tumor cell metastasis.

The influence of the carbohydrate moiety on glycopeptide structure and function is an area of keen interest to the "Polt Group." Using synthetic methods developed in our lab, the preferred conformations of various glycopeptide model systems have been examined using state-of-the-art 2-D NMR techniques.  We have produced a number of glycopeptide drug candidates based on endogenous neurotransmitters.  The O-linked enkephalin glycosides were the first glycopeptide-based neurotransmitters to function as drugs in vivo, and we have now extended this approach to drug designs based on angiotensin(1-7), endorphins, dynorphins, deltorphins, as well as much larger glycopeptides based on Oxytocin, PACAP (pituitary adenylate cyclase activating peptide) and VIP (vasoactive intestinal peptide).  All of these classes of glycopeptide have been shown to penetrate the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to produce central effects.  

Current studies focus on the design, synthesis and testing of these and other glycopeptide drugs.