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Colloquium | Nanoscience and Technology Division

Revealing the Structure and Function of Membrane Proteins through Nanotechnology

NST Colloquium

Abstract: Membrane proteins are involved in numerous vital biological processes, including transport and signal transduction, and as enzymes in a variety of metabolic pathways. Integral membrane proteins account for up to 30% of the human proteome and make up more than half of all currently marketed therapeutic targets. Unfortunately, membrane proteins are inherently difficult to study using the normal toolkit available to scientists, and one is often left with the challenge of finding inhibitors, activators, and specific antibodies by using a denatured or detergent solubilized aggregate. However, since membrane proteins are inherently insoluble and prone to aggregation and oligomerization in solution, the active state of interest is obscured.

The Nanodisc platform circumvents these challenges by providing a self-assembled system that renders typically insoluble, yet biologically and pharmacologically significant targets such as receptors, transporters, enzymes, and viral antigens soluble in aqueous media. Because Nanodisc constructs provide a native-like bilayer environment that maintain a target’s functional activity, they are a versatile tool in the study of membrane proteins such as ion channels, GPCRs, cytochrome P450s, blood coagulation factors, various toxins, and viral entities as well as a plethora of pharmaceutical targets. In addition to opportunities in drug discovery, Nanodiscs provide a nanometer-scale vehicle for the in vivo delivery of amphipathic drugs, therapeutic lipids, tethered nucleic acids, imaging agents, and active protein complexes.

In my presentation, I will summarize the use of Nanodiscs for structural biology, sensing, and imaging as well as recent work seeking a mechanistic understanding of oncogenic cancer signaling by KRas4b.