Collaborative Research: Heme Distortion and Protein-Protein Contacts in Oxygen-Dependent Globin Coupled Sensor Signaling

Project: Research project

Project Details


With this award, the Chemistry of Life Processes Program in the Chemistry Division is funding Dr. Emily Weinert from Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Christine Dunham from Emory University, and Dr. James Kincaid from Marquette University to investigate bacterial oxygen-sensing proteins. Bacteria are integral to the health of ecosystems, plants, animals, and humans, and have evolved to adapt to constantly changing conditions within their environment. However, the mechanisms by which bacteria sense and respond to changes in the levels of environmental gases are poorly understood. The research supported by this award examines the roles of environmental signals in controlling bacterial phenotypes; more specifically it examines the signaling mechanism and pathway of a family of proteins termed globin-coupled sensors that are responsible for sensing oxygen. This project provides specialized training for students in protein chemistry, spectroscopy, and X-ray crystallography. Additionally, the participants in this project are integrating their research results into a board game to create lesson plans that make elementary and middle school students aware of how proteins help bacteria sense and react to changes in their environment.

This research project seeks to characterize the intra- and inter-molecular protein interactions that control oxygen-dependent signaling by a family of bacterial heme proteins termed globin-coupled sensors. Globin-coupled sensor proteins are widely distributed within bacteria and contain output domains that are linked to important phenotypes, including biofilm formation, motility, and virulence. A combination of research methods that includes mutagenesis/screening, enzyme kinetics, resonance Raman spectroscopy, and X-ray crystallography is being used to interrogate the oxygen-dependent signaling mechanism within globin coupled sensor proteins and the transmission of the signaling events to downstream partners. Results from this study are expected to provide new information about bacterial gas-sensing proteins, signal transduction pathways, and regulation of key bacterial enzymatic domains involved in controlling biofilm formation and virulence.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date8/15/207/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $497,199.00


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