Research Area E: Protein Engineering and Chemical Biology
This area focuses on the manipulation of protein functions. Protein biotechnology utilizes evolutionary or combinatorial selection, targeted point mutations or methods of rational design in order to improve proteins, to adapt them to technological or medical applications or even to create novel proteins. This area comprises e.g. antibody-like proteins with new molecular recognition properties, enzymes with improved substrate specificity, activity or stability as well as membrane-spanning protein domains exhibiting altered fusogenic properties or tunable oligomerization. The efforts in chemical genetics concentrate on the development of small organic molecules as well as DNA or RNA-based substances (e.g. RNAi) to manipulate protein or gene functions in living cells. Here a particular emphasis is placed on the control of developmental processes (collaboration Carell with Cremer and Leonhardt, research area D). Furthermore, DNA-strands containing lesions will be prepared to learn about the interaction between transscription and repair (collaboration Carell with Cramer and Hopfner area C). The idea is furthermore to switch on or off certain intracellular protein activities in cells with small molecules in order to gain deeper insight into the organization of protein networks and signal cascades in cells. Another direction is to create chemical probe molecules, which can report about the presence of functional protein activity in living cells in a more function-oriented chemical proteomics direction (collaboration Sieber, Mann, area C and Görg). Finally new, highly sensitive and non-toxic fluoresence based voltage sensitive dyes are developed together with the Klein group from the MPI for Neurobiology.