Membrane proteins facilitate the transfer of information across lipid bilayers, comprise approximately 25% of a typical proteome, and represent over half of alldrug targets. The membrane proteins that mediate interactions between bacterial pathogens and hosts are of particular interest to the Columbus laboratory. Invasive bacterial pathogens are responsible for many lethal diseases and epidemics, including plague and meningitis. Although these bacteria have diverse mechanisms of cellular invasion, all of the pathways rely upon interactions between host and bacterial membrane proteins.
The Columbus lab seeks to determine the structure and conformational changes of membrane proteins involved in bacterial infection using a combination of site-directed spin labeling (SDSL), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and X-ray crystallography, and also to develop tools to accelerate membrane protein structure determination by these methods.