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CEF researcher chosen as partner in a large NIH-funded research consortium on membrane proteins

12 November 2010. Most transport of material or information across biological membranes is performed by membrane proteins. These transport processes often require substantial conformational rearrangements of the proteins, for example for binding substrate molecules outside of the cell, transferring them through the hydrophobic environment of the membrane and then releasing them into the cellular cytoplasm. Despite the high importance of membrane proteins for many biological functions and their significance as drug targets for treating diseases very little is understood about the dynamics of these processes.

To close this knowledge gap, the US National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) supports an interdisciplinary team of scientists who will use state-of-the-art biophysical and computational methods to understand how the structure and movement of membrane proteins determine their functions. Included in this international team is the research group of Volker Dötsch at the Institute of Biophysical Chemistry of the Goethe University. Over the last couple of years researchers in his group led by Frank Bernhard have developed a cell-free protein expression system that enables researchers to express roughly 80% of all membrane proteins – both prokaryotic and eukaryotic ones. Since membrane proteins are notoriously difficult to express in cellular systems, the cell-free expression system provides a very interesting alternative approach to obtain the large quantities of material required for detailed biochemical and biophysical investigations. In addition, the team from Frankfurt provides for the consortium expertise in the structure determination of membrane proteins using liquid state NMR spectroscopy.

NIGMS will fund the project through a glue grant totaling $22.5 million over 5 years. This project, called the Membrane Protein Structural Dynamics Consortium, includes investigators from 14 institutions in four different countries and will be managed by Eduardo Perozo from the University of Chicago who is the coordinator of this grant.

The Membrane Protein Structural Dynamics Consortium includes scientists at Cornell University, Columbia University, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität (Germany), the National Institutes of Health, Stanford University, the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Toronto (Canada), the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin, Utrecht University (the Netherlands) and Vanderbilt University.

For more information


Volker Dötsch
e-mail: vdoetsch(at)em.uni-frankfurt.de
Tel.: +49 69 798-29631

Institute of Biophysical Chemistry
Biocenter, Campus Riedberg
Goethe University Frankfurt
Max-von-Laue Str. 9
60438 Frankfurt/Main