sequences tell us that membrane proteins make up 25-30%
of the proteome of organisms from procaryotes to humans.
Their diverse and fundamental roles in cellular processes
throughout the biological world make them a new frontier
of biological and biomedical research, which has in
the past focused more on soluble components of cells.
Membrane proteins and lipids, often in macromolecular
assemblies, are responsible for the transport of materials
into and out of cells, cell sensing and signal transduction,
cell-cell contact recognition, cellular recognition
of antigens in the immune system, detoxification of
reactive compounds, intracellular compartmentalization
and communication between cell compartments, and cell-cell
communication via hormones, neurotransmitters, chemokines
and other signaling molecules. Membrane functions
are therefore vital to health and not surprisingly
specific defects in membrane proteins and toxic effects
of membrane-active substances are associated with
numerous known disease states.
The research activities of Center scientists focus
on the biogenesis of membranes and cell compartments,
lipid-protein interactions, the structure and function
of a number of exquisite molecular machines that carry
out active transport of ions, metabolic substrates,
proteins, and DNA across membranes of both procaryotic
and eucaryotic cells, the mechanisms of membrane proteins
in human cells that metabolize drugs and disarm carcinogens,
and the structure, function and networking of membrane
receptors that transport information from the environment
to cytoplasmic signal transduction pathways in microorganisms
and human tissues.
The Center is housed in the Department of Biochemistry
& Molecular Biology, with researchers also from
the Departments of Integrative Biology & Pharmacology,
and Microbiology & Molecular Genetics. Ample resources
are available to Center scientists to study a variety
of experimental systems using multidisciplinary approaches
from biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics,
cell biology, biophysics, and developing methodologies
in X-ray crystallography and functional genomics.