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Our Team

Our team is led by Dr. Darkhan Utepbergenov, and consists of researchers of various ranks with many undergraduate students from the Chemistry Department of Nazarbayev University. We perform research at the interface of organic chemistry and biochemistry providing a great opportunity for research experience and training in fundamental science.


We are a protein chemistry lab focusing mostly on chemistry and biochemistry of  methylglyoxal and related dicarbonyl compounds. Methylglyoxal is known to be a byproduct of glycolysis and can damage proteins and DNA. Currently several projects in the lab are underway to gain new knowledge on pathophysiology of methylglyoxal and enzymes involved in its detoxification.

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+7 7172 709107



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March 5, 2024

Huge news!! We published a paper on new molecular function of DJ-1!! We show that DJ-1 catalyzes the hydrolysis of cyclic 3-phosphoglyceric anhydride (cPGA). It is highly likely that this function is unique to DJ-1. There have been many predictions that there exists a toxic molecule that only DJ-1 can deal with, which would explain why DJ-1 is neuroprotective. Well, it turned out to be true. This molecule is cyclic phosphoglyceric anhydride (cPGA) and DJ-1 seems to be the only protein in human body that can catalyze its inactivation! Scientists have been trying to solve this puzzle for 30 years. We think this puzzle it solved now. 

This paper is free to download here

Static pdf is available via this link

September 2023
Former students visit the lab when they come from abroad, to share their experience and impart some wisdom on current students over a pint of beer. Photos are here!

August 2023
Farewell party for Nelly Dey, photos are here!

August 2023
Nelly Dey was accepted to Master Program in Paris-Saclay University, France!! Congratulations, Nelly!!

June 2023

Adilet Bekmagambetov (Class of 2024, Biology) joins the lab to work on characterization of pathogenic DJ-1 mutants!

May 2023

Lab reunion took place in Massanutten resort, Virginia! Photos are here!

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