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The Wimley Laboratory


Our Research Focus

The membranes that  define and compartmentalize all living cells have been called a "fluid mosaic" of proteins embedded within a lipid bilayer membrane. The integrity of these membranes as well as the functions of the proteins within them are essential to life. For example, more than 25% of all proteins in the human genome are membrane proteins and about half of all drug targets are membrane proteins.  Our laboratory is studying the structure and folding of proteins in membranes using peptide model systems and computer analysis.  We are also developing methods for the design and engineering of membrane proteins and for the design of molecules that modulate the function or activity of membrane proteins. 

The laboratory's broad, long-term research areas  are listed below:

Peptide Drug Design

Targeted application of high throughput screening of peptide libraries to problems of acute biomedical interest. e.g. design of  peptide antibiotics.

Protein Engineering

Design and engineer peptide model systems that fold into specific structures in membranes. Most of our current efforts are directed toward the design of transmembrane b-barrels.

Physical Chemistry and Thermodynamics

Understand the fundamental physical principles of peptide folding in membranes.

Genomics and Proteomics

Develop algorithms for identifying membrane proteins in genome databases and test those predictions using proteomics methods.

Combinatorial Chemistry & High Throughput Screening

Use combinatorial peptide libraries and high thoughput screening methods to design peptides that fold into specific structures in membranes and to design peptides that specifically interact with particular membrane proteins.


The Laboratory's Research Methods

We address protein folding in membranes through the chemical and  biophysical study of peptide model systems designed specifically to address one or more of the four conceptual steps that we use to think  about protein folding in membranes: polypeptide binding to membrane  surfaces, formation of secondary structure, insertion of secondary structure elements into the membrane and formation of tertiary structure within the  membrane. We design and engineer peptide systems iteratively on the basis of both experimental and theoretical work. We use standard solid-phase peptide synthesis and combinatorial peptide synthesis to make peptides, and we use biophysical methods such as fluorescence, circular dichroism, equilibrium binding and calorimetry to characterize the binding, structure, and peptide organization within membranes. 










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