Studying protein clusters in physiological membranes
Membrane proteins are the gatekeepers of biological cells and control a great variety of tasks that are essential for cellular homeostasis, and they are involved in virtually any signalling cascade. In the recent years, more and more evidence has emerged that certain membrane proteins organise in large clusters to fulfil their functions.
A combined solid-state NMR and computational approach
Together with his colleagues, Dr. Markus Weingarth from Utrecht University has developed a combined experimental and computational approach to study the organisation of membrane protein clusters in physiological conditions. In particular, the collection of experimental data on membrane protein clusters was enabled by using Dynamic Nuclear Polarization, a cutting-edge technique that can drastically enhance solid-state NMR sensitivity.
In their study, the researchers demonstrate that potassium channels aggregate and dissociate during their gating cycle, which implies that cluster formation is an intrinsic functional property of certain ion channels. This study highlights the importance of understanding how membrane proteins interact at high resolution, especially as protein assemblies are ubiquitous in crowded biological membranes.
Supramolecular organization and functional implications of K+ channel clusters in membranes (open access); Visscher, K.M., Medeiros-Silva, J. Mance, D., Rodrigues, J.P.G.L.M., Daniëls, M., Bonvin, A.M.J.J., Baldus, M., Weingarth, M., (2017) Angew. Chem., 56, 13222