The Southern Lights — Rhodopsin Complexes Discovered in an Algae Near Antarctica Can Help Unravel the Secrets of the Brain

Time: 11:00-12:15
Location: Gerhard M.J. Schmidt Lecture Hall
Lecturer: Dr. Moran Shalev-Benami
Organizer: Department of Chemical and Structural Biology
Details: Department of Chemical & Structural Biology, Faculty of Chemistry, WIS
Abstract: Rhodopsins are a ubiquitous family of light sensing/signaling proteins. In recen ... Read more Rhodopsins are a ubiquitous family of light sensing/signaling proteins. In recent work, our group discovered an intriguing family of rhodopsins in algae: the bestrhodopsins. Through cryo-EM and comprehensive biochemical and electrophysiological studies, we showed that bestrhodopsins are fusions of rhodopsins and ion channels which assemble as mega-complexes to enable light-controlled passage of ions across membranes. Regulation of a classical ion channel by an attached photoreceptor has never been found before in nature, and previous attempts to engineer light-regulated fused channels have yielded limited success. The discovery and characterization of bestrhodopsins thus provide a new template for designing proteins with light-sensing and ion-conducting activities, as well as represent a platform for regulating cellular signaling in living organisms using light. These findings are therefore not only important as a basic scientific discovery but also for the field of optogenetics where neural activity is controlled by light. In the present talk, I will present the discovery of the bestrhodopsins, and explain how we use our cryo-EM work for structure-based design of dramatically improved tools to manipulate signaling cascades in cells by light control, paving the way for the next generation of optogenetics tools to study brain function in vivo.
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