Research Biological

Biological Research

Graduate students in the Division meld molecular and structural biology with physical, organic and analytical chemistry to understand the molecular basis of biological processes and human disease. Research in the Biological Division focuses on the structure, stability and function of proteins, membranes, DNA, RNA, macromolecular complexes and viruses, natural product biogenesis, synthetic biology, and genomics.

Students are a constant source of new hypotheses for mechanisms underlying cellular machines like the ribosome, spliceosome, and as well as protein and RNA folding. Students tackle these problems using biochemical methods, chemical biosensor technologies, protein and nucleic acid crystallography, in vitro and in vivo evolution, multi-dimensional NMR spectroscopy, surface chemistry, atomic-force microscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, and high-resolution mass spectrometry.

Doctoral students in our Divsion leave the Department broadly trained for leadership roles in academia and industry.

Recent Research Results

Water’s Variable Role in Protein Stability Uncovered by Liquid-Observed Vapor Exchange NMR

Here, we apply LOVE NMR, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and solution hydrogen–deuterium exchange to globular proteins GB1, CI2, and two variants thereof to link mutation-induced changes in the dehydrated protein structure to changes in solution structure and stability.

Dynamical spectroscopy and microscopy of proteins in cells

Here, we discuss this recent work and the emerging picture of protein surfaces as not just hydrophilic coats interfacing the solvent to the protein's core and functional regions, but as critical components in cells controlling protein mobility, function and communication with post-translational modifications.

Taking phototherapeutics from concept to clinical launch

This Review highlights these recent discoveries, along with their limitations and clinical opportunities.

Representative Publications

Accounts of Chemical Research.
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SHAPE Directed Discovery of New Functions in Large RNAs Kevin M. Weeks Accounts of Chemical Research 2021 54 (10), 2502-2517 DOI: 10.1021/acs.accounts.1c00118

Toxicology in Vitro.
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Physiologically relevant oxygen tensions differentially regulate hepatotoxic responses in HepG2 cells Thomas J. DiProspero, Erin Dalrymple, Matthew R. Lockett, Toxicology in Vitro 2021 74, 0887-2333 DOI: 10.1016/j.tiv.2021.105156

ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
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Dye-Sensitized Nonstoichiometric Strontium Titanate Core–Shell Photocathodes for Photoelectrosynthesis Applications Caroline E. Reilly, Robert J. Dillon, Animesh Nayak, Shane Brogan, Taylor Moot, Matthew K. Brennaman, Rene Lopez, Thomas J. Meyer, and Leila Alibabaei ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2021 13 (13), 15261-15269 DOI: 10.1021/acsami.1c00933

Chemical Research in Toxicology.
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Toxicological Responses of α-Pinene-Derived Secondary Organic Aerosol and Its Molecular Tracers in Human Lung Cell Lines Faria Khan, Karina Kwapiszewska, Yue Zhang, Yuzhi Chen, Andrew T. Lambe, Agata Kołodziejczyk, Nasir Jalal, Krzysztof Rudzinski, Alicia Martínez-Romero, Rebecca C. Fry, Jason D. Surratt, and Rafal Szmigielski Chemical Research in Toxicology 2021 34 (3), 817-832 DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemrestox.0c00409

Current Opinion in Structural Biology.
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Protein-complex stability in cells and in vitro under crowded conditions Samantha S. Stadmiller and Gary J. Pielak Current Opinion in Structural Biology 2021 66, 183-192 DOI: 10.1016/j.sbi.2020.10.024

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .
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The intracellular environment affects protein–protein interactions Shannon L. Speer, Wenwen Zheng, Xin Jiang, I-Te Chu, Alex J. Guseman, Maili Liu, Gary J. Pielak, Conggang Li Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Mar 2021, 118 (11) e2019918118 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2019918118

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