My research probes the structure and function of proteins, especially proteins associated with membranes. My two areas of interest are:
A. Chemical signals that induce growth and development (or death) in the nervous system.
The key communication cells in the nervous system are nerve cells. The functional integrity of a nerve cell is dependent upon helper cells (called glial cells) which surround the nerve cell and protect and nourish it. Many factors (some chemicals and also proteins known as growth factors) are involved in signaling the onset of development of the nervous system and the onset of recovery from damage to the nervous system. Other factors are involved in cell death. These factors bind to membrane proteins called receptors and induce intracellular changes. The groups of proteins and chemicals reponsible for the intracellular changes are called second messenger systems.
All the neurochemistry research projects are joing projects with the laboratory of Dr. Jun Yoshino. Some of the components of the second messenger systems that we are currently investigating are listed below:
B. Organization of the proteins which capture light in photosynthesis (light harvesting proteins).
This project is an extension of my long-term interest in the light harvesting proteins. All chlorophyll involved in photosynthesis is bound by proteins. We are using chemical modifications to probe the nature of the protein-protein interactions in the large multiprotein complex (possibly 24 proteins) that forms in the membrane where photosynthesis occurs. Small complexes of the proteins are isolated and their ability to associate with each other is studied. We are investigating how chemical changes on the surface of the proteins affect their association with each other.
Students involved in these research projects will learn some
of the basic biochemical techniques used in protein chemistry and
membrane chemistry. Centrifugation and protein separation
techniques (gel electrophoresis, gel filtration chromatography,
high pressure liquid chromatography) are used to purify proteins
and prepare membrane fragments. Please feel free to drop by my
office to obtain further information about these projects or to
discuss other research ideas.
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