Research Topics - Membrane Biology

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Bacteria contain the simplest photosynthetic machineries found in nature. Higher organisms like algae and plants practice photosynthesis in a more elaborate but principally similar manner as bacteria. But even for its simplicity, the bacterial photosynthetic unit is not without its unsolved mysteries. Take, for example, the crucial photosynthetic core complex, which performs light absorption and the initial processing of the light energy. In certain bacterial species, the core complex contains two copies of an additional small protein (made of about 80 amino acids) called PufX, whose role in photosynthesis is still a puzzle, and its location within the core complex is yet to be pinpointed. Numerous imaging studies have been published, yielding two opinions on what the role of PufX is and where exactly it resides. One opinion assigns the protein the role of gate keeper, the other the role of coordinator. Recently, a computational investigation was carried out that much supports the second role. Since PufX comes as a pair, two copies of PufX were placed side-by-side in a biological membrane and they were seen to adhere to each other strongly, but assume with their cylindrical (helical) shape an angle of 38 degrees. This geometry is perfectly suited for PufX to join the two parts of the symmetrical core complex together in the middle and to impose on the parts the tilt that was actually observed in the imaging studies. The needed simulations were done with NAMD. More details can be found on our photosynthetic core complex website.

All Spotlights


A highly tilted membrane configuration for the pre-fusion state of synaptobrevin. Andrew E. Blanchard, Mark J. Arcario, Klaus Schulten, and Emad Tajkhorshid. Biophysical Journal, 2014. In Press.

Synaptotagmin's role in neurotransmitter release likely involves Ca2+-induced conformational transition. Zhe Wu and Klaus Schulten. Biophysical Journal, 107:1156-1166, 2014.

A structural model of the active ribosome-bound membrane protein insertase YidC. Stephan Wickles, Abhishek Singharoy, Jessica Andreani, Stefan Seemayer, Lukas Bischoff, Otto Berninghausen, Johannes Soeding, Klaus Schulten, Eli van der Sluis, and Roland Beckmann. eLife, 3:e03035, 2014. (17 pages).

Integration of energy and electron transfer processes in the photosynthetic membrane of Rhodobacter sphaeroides. Michaël L. Cartron, John D. Olsen, Melih Sener, Philip J. Jackson, Amanda A. Brindley, Pu Qian, Mark J. Dickman, Graham J. Leggett, Klaus Schulten, and C. Neil Hunter. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics, 1837:1769-1780, 2014.

Structural mechanism of voltage-dependent gating in an isolated voltage-sensing domain. Qufei Li, Sherry Wanderling, Marcin Paduch, David Medovoy, Abhishek Singharoy, Ryan McGreevy, Carlos Villalba-Galea, Raymond E. Hulse, Benoit Roux, Klaus Schulten, Anthony Kossiakoff, and Eduardo Perozo. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, 21:244-252, 2014.

The mechanism of ubihydroquinone oxidation at the Qo-site of the cytochrome bc1 complex. Antony R. Crofts, Sangjin Hong, Charles Wilson, Rodney Burton, Doreen Victoria, Chris Harrison, and Klaus Schulten. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 1827:1362-1377, 2013.

Reconciling the roles of kinetic and thermodynamic factors in membrane-protein insertion. James C. Gumbart, Ivan Teo, Benoit Roux, and Klaus Schulten. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 135:2291-2297, 2013.

The p7 protein of hepatitis C virus forms structurally plastic, minimalist ion channels. Danielle E. Chandler, Francois Penin, Klaus Schulten, and Christophe Chipot. PLoS Computational Biology, 8:e1002702, 2012.

Molecular dynamics investigation of the w current in the Kv1.2 voltage sensor domains. Fatemeh Khalili-Araghi, Emad Tajkhorshid, Benoit Roux, and Klaus Schulten. Biophysical Journal, 102:258-267, 2012.

Viewpoint: An emerging consensus on voltage-dependent gating from computational modeling and molecular dynamics simulations. Ernesto Vargas, Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy, Fatemeh Khalili-Araghi, William A. Catterall, Michael L. Klein, Mounir Tarek, Erik Lindahl, Klaus Schulten, Eduardo Perozo, Francisco Bezanilla, and Benoît Roux. Journal of General Physiology, 140:587-594, 2012.