In the last couple of years, Professor Sharon Ruthstein's lab has been exploring the cellular copper cycle in eukaryotic and prokaryotic systems using Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) spectroscopy.
While most of the proteins involved in the copper cycle are believed to be known, as well as some of the crystal structures, there is still lack of information on the kinetic and the transfer mechanism of the copper in the cellular environment. Since dysfunction of the copper regulation system can lead to neurological diseases, cancer, and to the cell death, it is essential to understand every little detail in the copper cycle to be able to control it according to specific needs.
EPR has become a powerful tool for studying complex dynamic biological systems since it is not limited to the protein size and does not require crystallisation. Hence, the biological system can be studied in solution, lipids and even the cellular environment.
Professor Ruthstein's group is applying various EPR measurements together with computations, biochemistry experiments, CD and NMR to identify the copper binding sites, as well as to understand how one protein in the cycle coordinated to another protein to transfer the metal ion. The research targets the conformational changes that occur in each protein with the aim of gaining important information on the transfer mechanism.
In this talk, Professor Ruthstein will present her recent results on the copper transfer mechanism in the human and E. coli cell and demonstrate how basic understanding of the function of these systems can assist in designing novel therapeutic and diagnostic compounds.