Megan Luo Rose Hills
Development Of A Method to Characterize Proteins With Multiple Folds
Most proteins have one known fold with small conformational changes with no dramatic structural differences. “Fold-switching” proteins have two or more folds that can be occupied and the preference can be shifted due to change in local environment. While rare, fold-switching proteins are implicated in diseases including SARS-CoV-2, rabies and cancer, making them potential drug targets. Furthermore, biotechnological applications of fold-switching proteins, such as biosensors, could lead to impacts in many fields. Therefore, it is important to understand the ratio of populations and interconversion rate between both conformations of a fold-switching protein. Current methods to determine these thermodynamic parameters, including NMR, technologically limit the range of proteins that can be studied. Thus new tools are needed to better characterize folding-switching landscapes.
I will study RfaH, a transcription factor in E. coli from the NusG protein superfamily that has a fold-switching domain. The fold-switching landscape of RfaH is well understood making this an ideal system for developing a generalizable method to study any protein that switches folds.