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Biophysics & Structural Biology

Unnatural product bound crystal structure of S-Adenosylmethionine synthetase solved by the Phillips Lab

Biophysics and Structural Biology at Rice University is wide ranging and covers many biological interests and biophysical techniques. Facilities include nuclear magnetic resonance instruments (500-, 600-, and 800-MHz NMRs), x-ray diffraction equipment and a variety of biophysical spectroscopy equipment for fluorescence, circular dichroism, and equilibrium ultracentrifugation studies.  In addition, Rice University is a member of the Gulf Coast Consortium with access to a macromolecular synchrotron beamline and additional high-field NMR facilities.  Faculty interests typically make use of several of these experimental techniques to understand the atomic basis of molecular interactions.  Traditionally, genetics, biochemistry and cell biology have provided the principles of molecular interactions and provide the conceptual framework for how interactions may function in vivo.  Structural biology provides the necessary atomic details for understanding how these critical interactions are mediated and provides investigators with new ideas about novel interactions or regulatory principles.


Faculty links:

Kathleen M. Beckingham:  Calcium signaling in Drosophila; gravitational sensing in Drosophila.

Matthew Bennett:  Synthetic biology and the dynamics of gene regulation. The Bennett lab uses a hybrid computational and experimental approach to design, construct and understand gene regulatory networks (lab home page).

Effects of Alpha-Hemoglobin Stabilizing Protein on heme pocket structure of αHb chains analyzed in the Olson Lab


Dmitri Lapotko : Mechanical effects of transient plasmonic nanobubbles at cellular and molecular levels, applications of plasmonic nanobubbles for diagnosis and treatment of malaria, cancer and other dangerous diseases at cell level, target cell-specific methods for gene and drug delivery (Lapotko lab home page).

Herbert Levine: Physics of nonequilibrium processes, especially in the emergence of spatial patterns in extended systems such as Dictyostelium chemotaxis, neuronal circuits, and phenotypic transitions in bacterial colonies.

Kathleen S. Matthews: Structure and function of genetic regulatory proteins.

James A. McNew: Molecular mechanism of biological membrane fusion; membrane protein expression and reconstitution, intracellular vesicular transport; functional reconstitution of exocytosis; role of SNARE proteins in yeast sporulation and cytokinesis; analysis of cell-cell fusion (lab home page).

Edward P. Nikonowicz: NMR spectroscopy of RNA and RNA-protein interactions - correlation of structure, function, and dynamics; biophysical studies and engineering of RNA regulatory elements; small molecule-RNA interactions; biophysical and functional studies of tRNA base modification.

John S. Olson:  Biochemical, biophysical, and physiological properties of myoglobins, hemoglobins, and red blood cells; genetic engineering of heme protein based blood substitutes; application of rapid kinetic techniques to biological problems (lab home page).

José Onuchic: Biophysical studies and modeling of protein folding and convergent kinetic pathways, the theory of chemical reactions in condensed matter with emphasis on biological electron transfer reactions, and stochastic effects in genetic networks.

George N. Phillips, Jr.: Prof. Phillips has a strong protein structure program, including a major project on discovery and structural studies on enzymes involved in natural product biosynthesis. The ultimate goal is to be able to create a wide range of novel semi-synthetic small molecules to use for screening for potential drug leads for cancer and other diseases.

Model of the interaction between the specifier domain of the tyrS riboswitch (green) and the anticodon loop of tyrosyl tRNA (red) from the Ed Nikonowicz lab

Yousif Shamoo:  The evolutionary and molecular basis for antibiotic resistance, directed evolution of protein structure-function, and the underlying biophysical and physiochemical principles of adaptation within bacterial populations (lab home page).

Jonathan Silberg: Investigation of the processes controlling molecular evolution, particularly the evolution of protein structure, function, and molecular recognition using biochemical, computational, and molecular biological methods (lab home page).

Jeffrey J. Tabor: Use of light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation to control the activities in proteins inside of cells in real time, constructing synthetic transcriptional and post-translational signaling circuits, programming cells to communicate using unnatural signals, and combining all of these technologies to program synthetic multicellular behaviors.

Yizhi Jane Tao:  Structure and function of RNA viruses; RNA virus genome replication and genome packaging; influenza A virus; dsRNA viruses; astroviruses (lab home page).

Peter Wolynes: Application of statistical energy landscapes to understand biomolecular regulatory networks, proteing folding kinetics, gene recognition and genetic network regulation. Development of bioinformatically based schemes for predicting structure from sequence using computer simulation.