Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 9 - 2018

Possu Huang, Bioengineering
Zev Bryant, Bioengineering

How do macromolecular machines work? From DNA synthesis, to cellular transport, to signaling, to macroscopic force generation required for pumping blood, swimming, or walking, biological nanomachines are involved in every aspect of biology. From the perspective of understanding protein structure and function, some molecular motors (e.g. kinesin) exhibit the most incredible amalgam of complex properties, combining molecular assembly, catalysis, allostery, and mechanical force generation — all in a single polypeptide chain. Studies on these motors have led to the understanding of how protein structural elements work together, like mechanical parts, but currently there is not sufficient knowledge of how these parts can be used outside of their native context to build entirely new machines. In this proposal, we will approach this complicated problem with attempts to define basic principles of energy conversion in proteins. Proceeding via a series of intermediate steps, we aim to ultimately create novel motors that can translocate nanoscale cargoes powered by chemical reactions or by light.