IUPUI Professor Developing Experimental Platform to Investigate Impact of Lipids on Membrane Protien Functionality

Release Date: 
Nov 9 2009

3-Year NSF Grant Enables Study of Biomembrane Functionality At the Single Molecule Level

Indianapolis, IN, Nov. 9, 2009 - The National Science Foundation recently awarded Dr. Christoph Naumann, an Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at the School of Science at IUPUI, a three year $442,000 grant using powerful experimental tools exploring the role of distinct lipid environments on membrane protein functionality. Beside its scientific significance, Dr. Naumann's research will have substantial translational potential as a drug screening assay employing membrane proteins acting as potential drug targets.

According to Naumann, there is now an increasing recognition among membrane biophysicists and cell biologists that lipids are much more important for membrane protein functionality than previously thought. The topic is of great scientific interest because lipids and membrane proteins in the plasma membrane are distributed in widely differing patches of close spatial correlation. Unfortunately, many of the underlying processes of protein-lipid interactions remain unclear, largely because lipid and protein patches in cellular membranes are often extremely difficult to detect.

"To overcome the existing difficulties in the characterization of lipid and protein patches, we are working to develop an experimental model membrane platform where we can investigate the interplay between individual membrane proteins and lipid patches of well-defined sizes and compositions," said Naumann. "In this biophysical study, we are particularly interested in a better understanding of the impact of lipids on transmembrane signaling processes at the single protein level."

Naumann will enlist undergraduate, graduate and high school students (via internships) to assist with the research. The interdisciplinary approach to the project will provide students experience in emerging areas of science including traditional sciences, materials science, engineering, and medicine.

"The research conducted by Dr. Naumann and his team is addressing important questions in biophysics using state-of-the-art technology and imaging techniques on the campus of IUPUI," said Bart Ng, Dean of School of Science at IUPUI. "The results of this study will enable future research of protein and lipid interactions in deadly diseases such as breast cancer."

For more information about this research and other pertinent projects in chemistry at the School of Science at IUPUI go to http://chem.iupui.edu/.