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Membrane Protein Structural Biology, Design and Fabrication

CBE researchers are participating in an exciting research initiate involving membrane protein molecular structure and function and membrane protein nanobiotechnology. At the core of these studies is a class of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) that represents the largest family of receptors directly involved in the biological aspects vision, smell, taste, and memory.  GPCRs are also directly involved in cancer metastasis, cardiovascular problems, asthma, AIDS and viral infection. The smell receptors represent the most abundant GPCRs (400 among the 800 GPCRs in humans) and, perhaps, the oldest of the sensory GPCRs to evolve.
Although olfaction is an important part of perception, the smell receptor molecular structure currently remains unknown. The question of how finite numbers of smell receptors recognize seemingly infinite odorants remains an enigma. This lack of understanding is mainly due to the difficulty in obtaining a sufficient amount of smell receptors for scientific studies. CBE researchers have now purified a large quantity of smell receptors and are now undertaking structural and functional studies. Since most membrane proteins are natural molecular devices, membrane protein-based nanodevices can be modeled from these receptors for a wide range of applications including the detection of infinitesimal amounts of odorants emitted from the environment as well as biological and chemical warfare agents.

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