CAREER:Biomolecular Flexibility: Facile Characterization of Equilibrium and Dynamical Behavior
Andrea Markelz Principal Investigator
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Biomolecules, such as proteins, are large molecules with well defined shapes. These shapes must change in order for the biomolecule to perform its biological tasks. If a biomolecule is flexible, it can easily change its shape. If it is too rigid, the shape can not easily change, and this can interfere with the biomolecule's function. Reasons for protein flexibility to change can include binding of another biomolecule, changes in environment such as water content or temperature and mutations in the biomolecule's chemical composition. It is important to be able to rapidly measure a biomolecule's flexibility. Currently established methods to measure biomolecular flexibility are time consuming and require special facilities. We have found that when we do something to change the flexibility of proteins they appear different when examined with light that is in the terahertz (1012 Hz) frequency range. The terahertz frequency range is just above the frequencies at which cellular phones operate. Recently compact measurement systems working at these frequencies have been developed, thus our aim in this work is to establish a new measurement technique that can be accessible to all researchers and allows rapid assessment of protein flexibility. In addition we intend to apply this technique towards understanding mechanisms of signal transduction. The development of a table-top flexibility characterization tool will assist in rapid advances in proteomic research and drug design. The program includes an outreach component which aims to 1) expose the general public to good science, bad science and how to tell the difference and 2) change public preconceptions of who scientists are by having presentations made by young women of a variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds. <br/><br/>This award is co-funded by the Divisions of Physics and Chemistry in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate and by the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences in the Directorate for Biological Sciences.