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made with VMD
Scanning their environment for information such as food resources, signs of danger, and illumination is crucial for the well being of biological cells. Evolution has developed for this purpose a great variety of membrane proteins, so-called receptors, that receive physical cues from the external environment through encounters with molecules or absorption of photons and send respective signals into the cell. A common type of receptor sends its signal through interaction with intracellular G-proteins that convey the signal further; proteins of this type are called G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs exist in lower as well as higher life forms and, in fact, the human genome codes for over 1300 GPCRs that detect ions, organic odorants, amines, peptides, proteins, lipids, nucleotides and photons. As about half of modern drugs act on GPCRs, learning how they become activated once they receive their signal is highly relevant. In a recent study, advanced computer simulation techniques using NAMD and VMD have been employed to investigate the first key steps of activation of a GPCR, the visual receptor rhodopsin. more.