Jena (vdG/UKJ). Ion channels and transporters are of central importance for messaging within the organism: These proteins in the cell membrane serve as sluice for the transport of various ions - such as potassium, sodium or chloride ions - into and out of the cell. They mediate, for example, the electrical activity of nerve cells or control blood pressure regulation. Being involved in such fundamental life processes, ion channels also play an important role in the understanding of disease mechanisms or for therapeutic approaches, for example when cancer cells are to perish by the targeted lock down of such channels.
For three years now, the research unit DynIon has been investigating the functioning of these through-gates through the cell membrane. As one result of this research, e.g., a new switching principle for potassium channels has been discovered. This new pharmacological activation mechanism occurs in different channels and cell types and is of general importance. "That outstanding result impressively illustrates our mode of working, in which data from laboratory experiments are analyzed and processed in powerful calculation approaches, as hin this case, by molecular dynamic simulations," emphasizes Prof. Dr. Klaus Benndorf, physiologist at the University Hospital Jena and spokesman of the research unit. With this concept and the results of the first funding phase, the DynIon team was able to convince the German Research Foundation (DFG), which is now funding the unit for a further three years with a total of more than four million euros.
Two working groups newly joining the network will expand the experimental method spectrum, which includes special electrophysiological methods, fluorometry or the spectroscopy of isolated proteins. One new partner is the biophysicist Prof. Dr. Christine Ziegler from the University of Regensburg. Being a specialist in the field of cryo-electron microscopy, she enables the combination of computer simulations and electrophysiology with structural studies. Dr. Indra Schröder, who is additionally funded by a Heisenberg scholarship from the DFG and who came to Jena from the TU Darmstadt, is working with artificial membrane models at Jena University Hospital. She studies structure-function relations in viral potassium channels.
Klaus Benndorf: “In the second funding phase, we want to further expand the synergy of laboratory experiments and advanced computer analysis, such as quantum mechanical simulations, Markov modeling and deep learning algorithms. We expect new insights into the function principles of ion channels and transporters.”
Further information: https://www.uniklinikum-jena.de/dynion/en/
DynIon working groups:
Prof. Dr. Thomas Baukrowitz, Dr. Marcus Schewe, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Prof. Dr. Klaus Benndorf, Dr. Jana Kusch, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Universitätsklinikum Jena
Prof. Dr. Andrew Plested, Dr. Han Sun, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie, Berlin
Prof. Dr. Christoph Fahlke, Jun.-Prof. Dr. Jan-Philipp Machtens, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Prof. Dr. Bert de Groot, Dr. Wojciech Kopec, Max-Planck-Institut für Biophysikalische Chemie, Göttingen
Prof. Dr. Paolo Carloni, Jun.-Prof. Dr. Mercedes Alfonso-Prieto, Prof. Dr. Christoph Fahlke, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Prof. Dr. Holger Gohlke, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
Prof. Dr. Frank Noé, Prof. Dr. Andrew Plested, Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Prof. Dr. Christine Ziegler, Universität Regensburg
PD Dr. Indra Schröder, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Universitätsklinikum Jena