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Monday, October 19, 2009
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
CNLS Conference Room (TA-3, Bldg 1690)


Biomolecules under pressure: Why it matters

Sol Gruner
Cornell University

Modest pressures encountered in the biosphere (i.e., below a few kbar) have extraordinary effects on biomembranes and proteins. These include pressure denaturation of proteins, as well as dramatic changes in monomer-multimer association, ligand binding, membrane ion transport, transcription/translation of proteins, virus infectivity, enzyme kinetics and conformational states. Yet all of the biomaterials involved are highly incompressible. The challenge is to understand the structural coupling between these effects and pressure to elucidate the relevant mechanisms. X-ray diffraction studies of membranes and proteins under pressure will be described. It is seen that the key is not the magnitude of the changes, but rather the differential compressibilities of different parts of the structure, leading to a biasing of conformational substates. Examples will be given of pressure studies on biomembranes and proteins. Lessons learned have important implications for the freezing of protein crystals, as is routinely done for protein crystallography and on the role or water in proteins.

Host: Michael Wall, CCS-3