The Prestegard laboratory specializes in the development and application of NMR methods for the study of systems of biological interest.
James H. Prestegard, currently GRA Eminent Scholar, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, and Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Georgia, has been named the winner of the 2023 EAS Award for Outstanding Achievements in Magnetic Resonance. This award is presented in recognition of significant individual contributions in the advancement of magnetic resonance by superior work in developing theory, techniques, or instrumentation. The award was presented at a special symposium, arranged in honor of the awardee, at the 2023 Eastern Analytical Symposium on Tuesday, November 14, at 1:30 pm.
Prestegard received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1966. He then moved to California to attend graduate school at Caltech. While he intended to pursue research in physical organic chemistry, he quickly became fascinated with the biophysical chemistry going on in Sunney Chan’s group and produced a thesis exploring applications of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to both nucleic acids and ion-transport antibiotics. While he intended to pursue postdoctoral studies involving the biophysics of membrane systems, a looming economic downturn dictated looking for a more permanent position. He joined the chemistry department of Yale University as an assistant professor in 1970.
The Prestegard laboratory specializes in the development and application of NMR methods for the study of systems of biological interest. Focus has evolved from lipid membranes to proteins to carbohydrates, and now to combinations of these systems.
The laboratory produced its first NMR structure of a protein in 1988 (acyl carrier protein), a structure which stood as the only structure of a fatty acyl carrier protein until a crystal structure appeared in 2001. It has produced many protein structures since that time, including one of the first integral membrane protein systems, the glycophorin dimer, in 1997. During this activity, new methodology was developed, including the use of lipid bicelles as an orientable medium for characterizing glycolipids and residual dipolar couplings (RDCs) as a new source of information on protein structure. In 2002, Prestegard was recognized for the introduction of RDCs by the Award of the Laukien Prize for an outstanding contribution to experimental NMR.
Since joining the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center at the University of Georgia, interest has turned to glycan-protein interactions and glycoprotein structure. Accomplishments here include the NMR structure determination of a glycoslytransferase domain having a novel fold and the characterization of glycan dynamics on a homogeneously glycosylated version of the immunoglobulin G Fc domain and other glycosylated proteins. Over the course of his career, Prestegard has mentored nearly 100 doctoral and postdoctoral students. He has published more than 400 papers, and he is one of the editors of the leading textbook in the field of glycobiology, “Essentials of Glycobiology,” now in its fourth edition.
The program for the award ceremony is as follows: