Natural & Synthetic Photoreceptor Systems: From Microbes to Man
Jan 24-29, Galveston, Texas:

Program GRC
Associated GRS, Jan 23-24

research interest

Molecular eyes – proteins that transform light into biological information

Photosensory receptors are used in all kingdoms of life to adapt to changing light conditions and to make important life style decisions accordingly. The light induced responses vary from phototaxis and photosynthetic gene regulation in phototrophic organisms to biofilm formation and virulence in pathogenic microbes. These receptors are modularly designed and usually consist of a sensing/photoreceptor domain and an output/effector domain. The receptor domain contains a pigment to absorb light of a specific wavelength region. The protein environment then reacts to light-induced changes in the pigment in order to modulate the activity of the effector domain. Although in most cases the primary processes as well as the communication between receptor and effector are still poorly understood, these proteins have gained immense attention as so-calledoptogenetictools to stimulate cells, tissue and even whole organisms selectively by light.

Our aim is to study both the primary processes after light absorption and the resulting structural changes that determine biological activity. For this purpose we employ a highly interdisciplinary approach using selective isotope labeling and a broad palette of state-of-the-art spectroscopic methods from the femtosecond to the minute time scale with sensitivity to the pigment (visible absorbance and fluorescence) and the protein (IR absorbance and stimulated Raman spectroscopy). In the end we want to draw a complete picture of the molecular structural dynamics from the time of excitation up to the biological active state.

November, 2014