Highlights of our Work

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Protein recycling is a key process crucial to a wide spectrum of regulatory processes within living cells. The executive player in this process is a molecular machine called the proteasome, which both unfolds and chops superfluous proteins into smaller pieces that will be used as raw building materials for new proteins. Given its critical role, the proteasome is involved in multiple human diseases, and it serves as a perfect target for a plethora of different drugs, most prominently, those commonly used in chemotherapy of cancer. With the goal of understanding how these drugs work and paving the way for designing even better drugs with less side effects, a recent collaborative study with W. Baumeister (MPI Munich) combined molecular dynamics flexible fitting (MDFF) with de novo structure prediction algorithms to derive four structural models from cryo-electron microscopy densities of the proteasome in different conformational states. These models provide the first atomic insights as to how ATP hydrolysis in the engine of the proteasome (cyan) unwinds proteins and steers them towards the degradation chamber (red). More information is available on our proteasome website. Easy access to our modeling techniques is provided through QwikMD.