Catherine Drennan

Catherine Drennan

Professor of Biology and Chemistry; Investigator and Professor, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Catherine Drennan takes “snapshots” of metalloenzymes using crystallography and/or cryo-electron microscopy.





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  • PhD,1995, University of Michigan
  • BS, 1985, Chemistry, Vassar College

Research Summary

We use X-ray crystallography to investigate the structure and function of enzymes that are medically important in environmental remediation. We are particularly interested in metalloprotein biochemistry, and in the role of conformational change in catalysis.


  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Member, 2020
  • Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Award, Protein Society, 2020
  • Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow, 2015-2025
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute, HHMI Investigator, 2008
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute, HHMI Professor, 2006

Key Publications

  1. A B12-dependent radical SAM enzyme involved in oxetanocin A biosynthesis. Bridwell-Rabb, J, Zhong, A, Sun, HG, Drennan, CL, Liu, HW. 2017. Nature 544, 322-326.
    doi: 10.1038/nature21689PMID:28346939
  2. Crystallographic snapshots of sulfur insertion by lipoyl synthase. McLaughlin, MI, Lanz, ND, Goldman, PJ, Lee, KH, Booker, SJ, Drennan, CL. 2016. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 113, 9446-50.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1602486113PMID:27506792
  3. Molecular basis for allosteric specificity regulation in class Ia ribonucleotide reductase from Escherichia coli. Zimanyi, CM, Chen, PY, Kang, G, Funk, MA, Drennan, CL. 2016. Elife 5, e07141.
    doi: 10.7554/eLife.07141PMID:26754917
  4. Structural basis for gene regulation by a B12-dependent photoreceptor. Jost, M, Fernández-Zapata, J, Polanco, MC, Ortiz-Guerrero, JM, Chen, PY, Kang, G, Padmanabhan, S, Elías-Arnanz, M, Drennan, CL. 2015. Nature 526, 536-41.
    doi: 10.1038/nature14950PMID:26416754
  5. Visualizing molecular juggling within a B12-dependent methyltransferase complex. Kung, Y, Ando, N, Doukov, TI, Blasiak, LC, Bender, G, Seravalli, J, Ragsdale, SW, Drennan, CL. 2012. Nature 484, 265-9.
    doi: 10.1038/nature10916PMID:22419154

Recent Publications

  1. Ribonucleotide Reductases: Structure, Chemistry, and Metabolism Suggest New Therapeutic Targets. Greene, BL, Kang, G, Cui, C, Bennati, M, Nocera, DG, Drennan, CL, Stubbe, J. 2020. Annu. Rev. Biochem. 89, 45-75.
    doi: 10.1146/annurev-biochem-013118-111843PMID:32569524
  2. A Stable Ferryl Porphyrin at the Active Site of Y463M BthA. Rizzolo, K, Weitz, AC, Cohen, SE, Drennan, CL, Hendrich, MP, Elliott, SJ. 2020. J. Am. Chem. Soc. , .
    doi: 10.1021/jacs.0c04023PMID:32564595
  3. Structure of a trapped radical transfer pathway within a ribonucleotide reductase holocomplex. Kang, G, Taguchi, AT, Stubbe, J, Drennan, CL. 2020. Science 368, 424-427.
    doi: 10.1126/science.aba6794PMID:32217749
  4. Molecular basis for catabolism of the abundant metabolite trans-4-hydroxy-L-proline by a microbial glycyl radical enzyme. Backman, LR, Huang, YY, Andorfer, MC, Gold, B, Raines, RT, Balskus, EP, Drennan, CL. 2020. Elife 9, .
    doi: 10.7554/eLife.51420PMID:32180548
  5. Structural and Biochemical Investigations of the [4Fe-4S] Cluster-Containing Fumarate Hydratase from Leishmania major. Feliciano, PR, Drennan, CL. 2019. Biochemistry 58, 5011-5021.
    doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.9b00923PMID:31743022
  6. Structural insight into metallocofactor maturation in carbon monoxide dehydrogenase. Wittenborn, EC, Cohen, SE, Merrouch, M, Léger, C, Fourmond, V, Dementin, S, Drennan, CL. 2019. J. Biol. Chem. 294, 13017-13026.
    doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.009610PMID:31296570
  7. Solution structure and biochemical characterization of a spare part protein that restores activity to an oxygen-damaged glycyl radical enzyme. Bowman, SEJ, Backman, LRF, Bjork, RE, Andorfer, MC, Yori, S, Caruso, A, Stultz, CM, Drennan, CL. 2019. J. Biol. Inorg. Chem. 24, 817-829.
    doi: 10.1007/s00775-019-01681-2PMID:31250200
  8. X-ray crystallography-based structural elucidation of enzyme-bound intermediates along the 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase reaction coordinate. Chen, PY, DeColli, AA, Freel Meyers, CL, Drennan, CL. 2019. J. Biol. Chem. 294, 12405-12414.
    doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.009321PMID:31239351
  9. DNA repair enzymes ALKBH2, ALKBH3, and AlkB oxidize 5-methylcytosine to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, 5-formylcytosine and 5-carboxylcytosine in vitro. Bian, K, Lenz, SAP, Tang, Q, Chen, F, Qi, R, Jost, M, Drennan, CL, Essigmann, JM, Wetmore, SD, Li, D et al.. 2019. Nucleic Acids Res. 47, 5522-5529.
    doi: 10.1093/nar/gkz395PMID:31114894
  10. A reverse TCA cycle 2-oxoacid:ferredoxin oxidoreductase that makes C-C bonds from CO2. Chen, PY, Li, B, Drennan, CL, Elliott, SJ. 2019. Joule 3, 595-611.
    doi: 10.1016/j.joule.2018.12.006PMID:31080943
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