Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 2 – 2002

Scott Delp, Mechanical Engineering
Michael Levitt, Structural Biology
James Spudich, Biochemistry
Vijay Pande, Chemistry

Molecular motors provide the engine for all motion in the body, from beating of the heart to division of cells. Myosin V, an important molecular motor, drives movements in neurons and other cells. Despite advances in experimental approaches to study motor proteins, fundamental questions regarding the basic function of this molecular machine remain unanswered. To understand how myosin V produces force and motion it is necessary to visualize the molecular motor during its power stroke. No experimental technique views myosin when it is moving and producing force.

We have begun development of the first dynamic simulation of myosin V, which will provide the first clear picture of this molecular motor in action. We have taken data describing the atomic structure of myosin V and constructed a computer model that moves in response to the forces generated by the molecular motor and the forces in the surrounding environment. Our preliminary results represent a major advance in biomedical simulation technology. Studies enabled by this technology will provide new understanding of an important life process.