Protein Research Department at the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB)
Cutting-edge research on the RUB campus is uniquely structured in departments covering material-science and lifescience. In life science, in the Protein Research Department (PRD Director; Klaus Gerwert), initiated in 2009, competitively selected Principle Investigators from the biology and biotechnology, chemistry and biochemistry and the medical faculties join forces in an interdisciplinary approach.
The primary research goal of the PRD is to understand the molecular reaction mechanisms of proteins, how they result in interactions, and how these interactions cause specific cellular responses or behaviour. Since defects in these interactions are responsible for many serious diseases, including cancer, the acquired understanding at the atomic level should eventually result in tailored drugs for molecular therapy or the identification of protein biomarkers.
The PRD is based around research done within the DFG Collaborative Research Center (spokesman; Klaus Gerwert) called ‘GTP and ATP driven membrane processes'. In the SFB 642, in addition to the PIs from Bochum, the four directors of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Dortmund also contribute their expertise in chemical and systems biology. Also involved in the PRD is the ongoing DFG Collaborative Research Centre SFB 480 (spokesman; Ulrich Kück) ‘Molecular Biology of Complex Performances of Botanical Systems'. The programmes of the DFG collaborative research centers 642 and 480 already focus on the proposed subject and their performance is approved by external DFG panels as excellent research collaborations.
The quantitative understanding of complex and controlled biological processes at the cellular level requires a deep insight into the relationship between various genetically programmed and dynamically regulated networks. In addition to the different organisms (micro-organisms, plants, animals) to be investigated, various facets have to be considered. In our approach, the propagation of intracellular signals via protein networks from the membrane towards the nucleus will be elucidated. The focus will be placed on processes originating at, or involving, biological membranes. This is exemplified by studies on sensory transduction originating at G-Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs) and pathways involving GTPbinding proteins of the Ras superfamily. In the early stages, the focus will be placed on these protein families and their pathways, but during the course of the department, it will be extended to other proteins and signalling pathways.
Modern techniques in biophysics, biochemistry, genetics, molecular and cell biology enable increasingly detailed determination of the function of the individual molecular machineries ex vivo. They also enable the study of interactions between particular cellular components in living cells and permit insights into the consequences of the failure or malfunction of such interactions. One of the main goals of the department is to close the large gap currently existing between molecular and systemic research approaches, and thus to arrive at a molecular understanding of the addressed cellular processes. Under this umbrella, topics ranging from protein structure and mechanism, macromolecular assemblies, functions of membrane-protein complexes all the way up to cellular behaviour are studied from a molecular perspective using both fundamental and applied methods (see also fig1).
Key proteins identified in the network will be analysed down to the atomic level using advanced structural and ultra-sensitive vibration techniques which provide molecular mechanisms. In the department clinics cooperate to convert the acquired knowledge into applications. The acquired understanding of the living cell at the molecular level will result in the development of novel and innovative applications in biotechnology with long-term benefits for public health, and it will play a key role in fostering new bio-industry activities in Bochum.
To identify protein biomarkers by analysing body fluids and tissues of large cohorts with modern bioanalytical methods in a novel founded research institute, PURE (Protein research Unit Ruhr within Europe) should become a spin off of PRD.
Ruhr University Bochum • Universitaetsstrasse 150, D-44801 Bochum, Germany