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Research Abstracts Online
January 2008 - March 2009

University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Institute of Technology
Department of Biomedical Engineering

PI: Jonathan N. Sachs, Associate Fellow

Probing Interactions Between Alpha-synuclein and Biological Membranes via All-atom MD Simulations

Programmed cell death, known as apoptosis, is critical for maintaining a viable population of differentiated cells. Deficiencies in the ability of a cell to control its fate through controlled death contribute to either excessive cell loss, in the case of neurodegenerative diseases, or excessive cell growth, as is the case in cancers. The evasion of apoptosis is widely considered as one of only six necessary alterations in cell physiology that correlate with tumor progression. The relatively recent discovery of apoptosis-inducing death receptors on the cell surface is an appealing target in the potential development of novel cancer therapeutics. Moreover, recent evidence suggests the lipid membrane plays a pivotal role in active signal transduction of the death signal, through transmembrane death receptors. These recent discoveries, along with crystal structure, nuclear magnetic resonance structure, and spatial pattern recognition data available for these death receptors, led these researchers to develop an appealing series of questions regarding the characterization of death receptors and the plasma membrane in apoptotic signaling. This project uses all-atom molecular dynamics to investigate the relationship between the structure, localization, and function of the death-inducing, transmembrane receptors belonging to the TNF receptor superfamily known as death receptors.

Group Members

Anthony Braun, Undergraduate Student
William Drasler, Graduate Student
Christopher Hilleshiem, Undergraduate Student
Grace Kim, Graduate Student
Mona C. Majid, Supercomputing Institute Undergraduate Intern
Steve Peerey, Undergraduate Student
Jason Perlmutter, Graduate Student
Christopher Valley, Graduate Student