Certain proteins have the ability of binding strongly to the surface of particular inorganic compounds, like gold, silver, platinum, silica, and others. Some of them do so with a high degree of specificity (meaning they adsorb to the surface of one substance and even to a particular crystalline face of that substance but not to others) and can even direct the precipitation of nano- or micron-scale particles from solution.
This avidity and specificity of certain peptides for particular inorganic substances can be of enormous technological and medical interest to self-assemble nanostructures useful for electronics and optics and to create biosensors, for example. However, the physical reasons behind that avidity and specificity are not from understood, which hinders the speedy development of new applications.
In the Maranas group we are developing computational models of adsorption of peptides to gold. We are doing both all-atom and coarse-grained simulations with the aim of investigating the influence of number, type and sequence of amino acids, and also of the morphology of the solid surface, on the adsorption of peptides to this material.
Undergraduates will collaborate with a post-doc on the all-atom simulations, focusing more specifically on how type and sequence of amino acids and surface morphology influence adsorption. They will become familiar with valuable molecular dynamics techniques, of generic interest to modeling problems in biomolecular engineering. Students will attend group meetings and will present their results to the group.