Understanding the origins of protein conformational behavior is a longstanding goal in biomolecular science because protein function often depends upon proper folding, and aberrant protein behavior can lead to human disease. Although much progress has been made, many important questions remain unanswered. Our program focuses on problems that benefit from, and in some cases require, the application of unconventional chemical strategies (involving synthesis of unnatural subunits and polypeptides) in concert with traditional tools of biophysics. One long-term effort involves the development of molecules that fold autonomously to parallel ?-sheet secondary structure in aqueous solution, which represent unique tools for assessing structure-stability relationships for parallel ?-sheet secondary structure in the absence of a specific tertiary context. Proposed studies include a novel initiativ to add a third dimension to autonomously folding ?-sheets by creating """"""""mini-solenoids"""""""", which would represent small segments of amyloid-like structure. These molecules are intended to enable us to probe amyloid packing phenomena via powerful solution-phase analytical methods. A second long-term effort involves a focus on coiled-coil interactions. The proposed research includes an effort to apply basic insights on coiled-coil pairing preferences to develop inhibitors of a protein assembly that underlies Streptococcal toxic shock. A third component of the proposed research involves application of racemic and quasi-racemic crystallography to acquire high-resolution insight on structural phenomena that are otherwise difficult or impossible to study. We propose to use racemic crystallography to characterize homo- and heterotypic associations involving transmembrane helix segments of cell-surface receptors. Such information is currently inaccessible, which hinders our understanding of signal transduction mechanisms. We propose to use quasi-racemic crystallography to identify guidelines for mimicking protein structural motifs with backbones that contain unnatural subunits. These studies could lay a foundation for rational engineering of novel biomedical agents.

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Proteins carry out most molecular-level tasks in living systems, and protein function usually depends on adoption of the proper shape. Our research is intended to reveal the factors that control common structural motifs in normal proteins, to elucidate the origins of improper protein folding (amyloid formation), and to establish guidelines for the design of protein-like molecules that might ultimately have therapeutic uses.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
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Synthetic and Biological Chemistry B Study Section (SBCB)
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Smith, Ward
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University of Wisconsin Madison
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Mortenson, David E; Kreitler, Dale F; Thomas, Nicole C et al. (2018) Evaluation of ?-Amino Acid Replacements in Protein Loops: Effects on Conformational Stability and Structure. Chembiochem 19:604-612
Eddinger, Geoffrey A; Gellman, Samuel H (2018) Differential Effects of ?3 - versus ?2 -Amino Acid Residues on the Helicity and Recognition Properties of Bim BH3-Derived ?/?-Peptides. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 57:13829-13832
Thomas, Nicole C; Bartlett, Gail J; Woolfson, Derek N et al. (2017) Toward a Soluble Model System for the Amyloid State. J Am Chem Soc 139:16434-16437
Kreitler, Dale F; Mortenson, David E; Forest, Katrina T et al. (2016) Effects of Single ?-to-? Residue Replacements on Structure and Stability in a Small Protein: Insights from Quasiracemic Crystallization. J Am Chem Soc 138:6498-505
Hayouka, Zvi; Thomas, Nicole C; Mortenson, David E et al. (2015) Quasiracemate Crystal Structures of Magainin 2 Derivatives Support the Functional Significance of the Phenylalanine Zipper Motif. J Am Chem Soc 137:11884-7
Kung, Vanessa M; Cornilescu, Gabriel; Gellman, Samuel H (2015) Impact of Strand Number on Parallel ?-Sheet Stability. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 54:14336-9
Mortenson, David E; Steinkruger, Jay D; Kreitler, Dale F et al. (2015) High-resolution structures of a heterochiral coiled coil. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112:13144-9
Fu, Li; Wang, Zhuguang; Psciuk, Brian T et al. (2015) Characterization of Parallel ?-Sheets at Interfaces by Chiral Sum Frequency Generation Spectroscopy. J Phys Chem Lett 6:1310-5
Laaser, Jennifer E; Skoff, David R; Ho, Jia-Jung et al. (2014) Two-dimensional sum-frequency generation reveals structure and dynamics of a surface-bound peptide. J Am Chem Soc 136:956-62
Maynard, Stacy J; Almeida, Aaron M; Yoshimi, Yasuharu et al. (2014) New charge-bearing amino acid residues that promote ?-sheet secondary structure. J Am Chem Soc 136:16683-8

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