Assigning and Testing Function from Structure of Uncharacterized Proteins

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Michael Pikaart

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In 2000, the National Institutes of Health initiated the Protein Structure Initiative as a multi-center structural biology program with “an initial goal to make the three-dimensional, atomic-level structures of most proteins easily obtainable from knowledge of their corresponding DNA sequences.” (NIGMS website). The third and final phase of this program concluded in 2015 with the publication and distribution of more than 5000 previously uncharacterized proteins. The work described here leverages the availability of high-quality structures and pre-cloned expression plasmids to combine forces of undergraduate biochemistry teaching lab courses across a diverse range of participating institutions. This consortium of undergraduate biochemistry faculty and students seeks to identify functional properties of a subset of these uncharacterized proteins, seeking to unify structure-and-function relationships. The current biochemistry laboratory class at Hope College has expressed and purified seven of these proteins, finding that structural information can guide, although not predict entirely, functional predictions regarding substrate specificity.


This work was supported by the National Science Foundation “Improving Undergraduate STEM Education” program.

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