Undergraduate Research Projects:

Oxidation Stress and Muscle Protein Structure and Function

We cannot survive more than minutes without oxygen—nor have we escaped vulnerability to oxidative stress.  Disease and biological aging are familiar contexts in which the role of oxidative ‘damage’ to DNA, lipids, and proteins has been recognized, even popularized by the promotion of antioxidants for longevity and disease resistance.  Under normal conditions, too, cells sensitively detect and respond to cellular redox state to maintain balance.  Our goal is to understand how molecules sense, respond, and are eventually damaged by oxidative stress.

 

We will examine how post-translational protein modifications associated with oxidative stress trigger functional and structural changes in the proteins involved in muscle contraction.   We will also test the role of antioxidant systems in recovering protein function after oxidative modification.

 

Undergraduate projects will focus on the impact of oxidative stress on protein structure and function using a variety of techniques that include molecular biology to create proteins for site-directed spectroscopy, cell culture and protein expression, carrying out biochemical assays, mass spectrometry and biophysical spectroscopy.

 

Project I:  Molecular Biology:  Create site-directed mutations in muscle protein DNA to create labeling sites for spectroscopy and to test the impact of mutation.  Qualifications include pursuit of a degree in science.

 

Project II: Biochemistry:  Measure the enzyme activity and protein-protein interactions of muscle proteins with oxidative modifications.  Qualifications include pursuit of a degree in science, with combined interests in biology and chemistry.

 

Project III: Biophysical Spectroscopy:  Use spectroscopy to measure muscle protein dynamics and molecular distances (structure).  Qualifications include pursuit of a degree in science, with overlapping interests in biology, chemistry or physics.

 

Project IIII: Computational Biophysics: Carry out computational molecular dynamics simulations of muscle regulatory and contractile proteins.  Qualifications include pursuit of a degree in science, with overlapping interests in biology, chemistry or physics.  Some experience with programming is desirable.