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Biological Sciences
Research Highlights

June 2005

PNNL receives NIH funding to model bacterial membrane proteins and human cell signaling networks

Computer model of the outer membrane of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, used by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers to explore the interaction with antibiotics and the transport of molecules through membrane proteins

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was recently awarded two National Institutes of Health grants that aim to alleviate medical issues affecting millions of Americans. (See news release at

In the first grant, PNNL researchers will develop a model for the cell wall of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in hope of discovering how its membrane proteins excrete antibiotics. P. aeruginosa takes advantage of a genetic defect in cystic fibrosis patients that changes the function of proteins in the membrane of cells in the lungs, allowing the formation of a biofilm that interferes with normal lung function. The research team will be led by Principal Investigator T.P. Straatsma.

The second NIH grant will fund research of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family, which is involved in cellular growth and differentiation. This research is expected to aid understanding of tumor formation.

The EGFR family of receptors has four members, and how these members affect each other's signaling properties is not well known. PNNL researchers will generate a computer model for these receptors that combines their trafficking and signal transduction properties to learn what might be causing abnormal cell growth. Wet lab experiments will be performed at PNNL to validate or invalidate the model predictions. Previous research at PNNL in this area sponsored by PNNL's Biomolecular Systems Initiative will significantly aid the planned computational work. Haluk Resat is Principal Investigator, and team members include Steven Wiley, Lee Opresko, and Marianne Sowa.

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