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Researcher Profile

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C. Denise Okafor

C. Denise Okafor

Assistant Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Scientific Program:Mechanisms of Carcinogenesis

Research Interests

  • Ligands
  • Cytoplasmic and Nuclear Receptors
  • Proteins
  • Liver
  • Iron
  • Enzymes
  • RNA
  • Transcription Factors
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Steroid Receptors
  • DNA
  • Phospholipids

Recent Publications


Glasser, NR, Cui, D, Risser, DD, Okafor, CD & Balskus, EP 2024, 'Accelerating the discovery of alkyl halide-derived natural products using halide depletion', Nature Chemistry, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 173-182.
Hazarika, S, Fehrle, M & Okafor, CD 2024, 'How nuclear receptors transition between active and inactive forms: An energetic perspective', Journal of Chemical Physics, vol. 160, no. 11, 115102.


Dube, N, Khan, SH, Sasse, R & Okafor, CD 2023, 'Identification of an Evolutionarily Conserved Allosteric Network in Steroid Receptors', Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, vol. 63, no. 2, pp. 571-582.
Mays, SG, Hercules, D, Ortlund, EA & Okafor, CD 2023, 'The nuclear receptor LRH-1 discriminates between ligands using distinct allosteric signaling circuits', Protein Science, vol. 32, no. 10, e4754.
Surrett, ED, Guckes, KR, Cousins, S, Ruskoski, TB, Cecere, AG, Ludvik, DA, Okafor, CD, Mandel, MJ & Miyashiro, TI 2023, 'Two enhancer binding proteins activate σ54-dependent transcription of a quorum regulatory RNA in a bacterial symbiont', eLife, vol. 12, e78544.


Mays, SG, D'Agostino, EH, Flynn, AR, Huang, X, Wang, G, Liu, X, Millings, EJ, Okafor, CD, Patel, A, Cato, ML, Cornelison, JL, Melchers, D, Houtman, R, Moore, DD, Calvert, JW, Jui, NT & Ortlund, EA 2022, 'A phospholipid mimetic targeting LRH-1 ameliorates colitis', Cell Chemical Biology, vol. 29, no. 7, pp. 1174-1186.e7.
Collins, SL, Stine, JG, Bisanz, JE, Okafor, CD & Patterson, AD 2023, 'Bile acids and the gut microbiota: metabolic interactions and impacts on disease', Nature Reviews Microbiology, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 236-247.
Cato, ML, Cornelison, JL, Spurlin, RM, Courouble, VV, Patel, AB, Flynn, AR, Johnson, AM, Okafor, CD, Frank, F, D'Agostino, EH, Griffin, PR, Jui, NT & Ortlund, EA 2022, 'Differential Modulation of Nuclear Receptor LRH-1 through Targeting Buried and Surface Regions of the Binding Pocket', Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 65, no. 9, pp. 6888-6902.
Russell, TJ, De Silva, EK, Crowley, VM, Shaw-Saliba, K, Dube, N, Josling, G, Pasaje, CFA, Kouskoumvekaki, I, Panagiotou, G, Niles, JC, Jacobs-Lorena, M, Okafor, CD, Gamo, FJ & Llinás, M 2022, 'Inhibitors of ApiAP2 protein DNA binding exhibit multistage activity against Plasmodium parasites', PLoS pathogens, vol. 18, no. 10, e1010887.
Khan, SH & Okafor, CD 2022, 'Interactions governing transcriptional activity of nuclear receptors', Biochemical Society transactions, vol. 50, no. 6, pp. 1941-1952.
Khan, SH, Braet, SM, Koehler, SJ, Elacqua, E, Anand, GS & Okafor, CD 2022, 'Ligand-induced shifts in conformational ensembles that describe transcriptional activation', eLife, vol. 11, e80140.
Braffman, NR, Ruskoski, TB, Davis, KM, Glasser, NR, Johnson, C, Okafor, CD, Boal, AK & Balskus, EP 2022, 'Structural Basis for an Unprecedented Enzymatic Alkylation in Cylindrocyclophane Biosynthesis', eLife, vol. 11, e75761.


Dube, N, Khan, SH & Okafor, CD 2022, 'Ancestral sequence reconstruction for evolutionary characterization of proteins', Trends in Biochemical Sciences, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 98-99.
McBride, MJ, Pope, SR, Hu, K, Denise Okafor, C, Balskus, EP, Martin Bollinger, J & Boal, AK 2021, 'Structure and assembly of the diiron cofactor in the heme-oxygenase–like domain of the N-nitrosourea–producing enzyme SznF', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 118, no. 4, e2015931118.


Tillman, MC, Imai, N, Li, Y, Khadka, M, Okafor, CD, Juneja, P, Adhiyaman, A, Hagen, SJ, Cohen, DE & Ortlund, EA 2020, 'Allosteric regulation of thioesterase superfamily member 1 by lipid sensor domain binding fatty acids and lysophosphatidylcholine', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 117, no. 36, pp. 22080-22089.
Guth-Metzler, R, Bray, MS, Frenkel-Pinter, M, Suttapitugsakul, S, Montllor-Albalate, C, Bowman, JC, Wu, R, Reddi, AR, Okafor, CD, Glass, JB & Williams, LD 2020, 'Cutting in-line with iron: ribosomal function and non-oxidative RNA cleavage', Nucleic acids research, vol. 48, no. 15, pp. 8663-8674.
Okafor, CD, Hercules, D, Kell, SA & Ortlund, EA 2020, 'Rewiring Ancient Residue Interaction Networks Drove the Evolution of Specificity in Steroid Receptors', Structure, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 196-205.e3.
Moody, JC, Qadota, H, Reedy, AR, Okafor, CD, Shanmugan, N, Matsunaga, Y, Christian, CJ, Ortlund, EA & Benian, GM 2020, 'The Rho-GEF PIX-1 directs assembly or stability of lateral attachment structures between muscle cells', Nature communications, vol. 11, no. 1, 5010.