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Chemists Receive NSF Award to Further Understanding of Lipids and Proteins

Chemists Receive NSF Award to Further Understanding of Lipids and Proteins

Chemistry professors Roger Koeppe and Denise Greathouse have received a $717,524 award from the National Science Foundation to address fundamental gaps in the understanding of lipids and proteins in biological membranes.

Biological function is governed by the molecular properties of proteins and other biomolecules that operate within the micro-environment provided by and for living cells. In recent years, researchers have relied on computational methods to predict the properties of cell membranes and gain a better understanding of the micro-environment.

“Computational methods need to be checked and validated by means of experimental measurements that can serve as benchmarks for the calculations,” said Koeppe, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “This project provides and extends our experimental framework to serve as a basis for advancing the predictive power of computational biophysics.”

The researchers will use several key methods, including peptide synthesis; stable isotope labeling, a technique to track an isotope by means of its magnetic properties; solid-state magnetic resonance measurements; and others. Their experimental approach will employ novel “host” transmembrane peptides, designed by Koeppe and Greathouse, as a basis for incorporating and querying the properties of “guest” amino-acid residues in lipid membranes. The researchers will also collaborate with computational biophysicists.

“The overarching goal of the research is to understand the operational diversity of membrane proteins for the performance and regulation of biological function,” said Greathouse, who is a research associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

The NSF grant for “Benchmarks for Membrane Biophysics” began this month and will extend into 2020.

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About The Author

Matt McGowan writes about research in the College of Engineering, Sam M. Walton College of Business, School of Law and other areas. He is the editor of Short Talks From the Hill, a podcast of the University of Arkansas. Reach him at 479-575-4246 or dmcgowa@uark.edu.

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