Exploring the protein conformational landscape for ligand discovery
Proper protein function depends on flexibility and hydration. Our laboratory is focused on understanding the dynamic features of proteins using structural and chemical biology. We use a unique variable temperature approach to analyze protein conformations. Ultimately, our work will inform the design of better drugs to target cancer.
Our laboratory explores the protein conformational landscape to better understand and modulate protein function in health and disease. We employ a multidisciplinary approach to analyzing protein crystal structures obtained at variable temperatures to understand how ligands, mutations, and other factors perturb protein conformations.
Understanding the molecular underpinnings of proteins requires the generation of structural models. The traditional method of collecting data on protein crystals involves freezing them at cryogenic temperatures. This convenient and common practice was applied for the collection of about 95% of all crystal structures but the process also freezes out different conformations that are often essential to a protein’s function.
Our laboratory diverges from traditional crystal structure analysis by using a unique variable temperature X-ray crystallography approach to probe the protein conformation landscape. We aim to reveal protein conformations that are hidden in conventional approaches and gain insights into water networks that impact ligand binding. Our team uses this dynamic information to design specific ligands that would not be found in the static snapshot typically obtained with traditional X-ray crystallography methods.
Through collaboration with numerous experts at St. Jude, particularly in Department of Chemical Biology & Therapeutics, our laboratory has expanded its research to explore targeted protein degradation approaches. This interdisciplinary endeavor ties together elements of structural biology, chemical biology, molecular biology, and cell biology towards exploring new therapeutic modalities besides classic occupancy-based inhibition of protein function.