E. James Petersson
Structure and Function of Neural Signaling Proteins
Communication between nerve cells that allows us to sense, to learn, and to feel emotion is made possible by receptor proteins in the nerve cell membrane and downstream signaling proteins within the cell. These dynamic proteins transmit signals by switching from a resting state structure to an activated structure. Studying these protein motions not only aids our understanding of diverse neurological phenomena, it also contributes to an important fundamental problem in biochemistry: understanding how motions propagate from one end of a protein to another. The Petersson lab is developing methods for chemically modifying these proteins to study their motions. These tools will help to address questions of how dynamic proteins mediate communication between cells, from in vitro studies in atomic detail to mapping signals in complex cellular systems.