Presenter: Sonya Hanson, Ph.D.,
Structural & Molecular Biophysics Collaboration,
Center for Computational Biology
Title: Elucidating mechanisms of biological temperature sensing
Abstract: Despite the existence of engineered thermometers since the time of Galileo and electronic temperature sensors in even our phones, we still do not understand the molecular mechanisms of our own internal biological temperature sensors. Engineered thermometers take advantage of simple laws, but is the same true for biological temperature sensors? While we have identified certain biological macromolecules that play a key role in temperature sensation, our understanding of their temperature sensing mechanisms remain poor. For example, we know of the capsaicin- and heat-sensitive TRPV1, and the other members of the TRP family whose range of temperature sensitive properties extends from extreme cold to extreme heat. However, we have yet to identify their coveted modular temperature sensor despite the onslaught of structural information of this family from cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) of the last few years. With the help of molecular dynamics (MD) simulation, structural modeling, bioinformatics, machine learning, and advanced methods in cryo-EM analysis we are approaching insights for this class of protein. Specific problems relating to temperature sensing proteins in arabidopsis, marine bacteria, and drosophila will be discussed, as well as technical tricks that we hope will improve our ability to learn more about these proteins from cryo-EM data.