Ph.D. Students Publish Protein Insights

Written by: Dean Maskevich,

The significance of research by Zhaoqian Su and Farbod Mahmoudinobar, Ph.D. students in the Department of Physics, has been recognized by publication in a recent issue of the journal Physical Review Letters. Along with their advisor, Assistant Professor of Physics Cristiano Dias, they have published “Effects of Trimethylamine-N-oxide on the Conformation of Peptides and its Implications for Proteins.”

For their research, the students used all-atom computer simulations to study how trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) stabilizes the structure of proteins. TMAO is an organic molecule found in living organisms that need to cope with extreme conditions such as high pressure — for example, deep sea animals. TMAO has also been related to cardiovascular diseases.

This work at NJIT provides a new perspective on the intensive debate regarding how TMAO stabilizes the structure of proteins. It is anticipated that understanding how organic molecules affect proteins at the atomic level may lead to new drug-design principles. Computer simulations are an important tool for this type of study, as experiments often do not provide enough detail to account for atomic-level effects of organic molecules on proteins.