Soft matter experiments to understanding molecular crowding in cells
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Up to 40% of the entire available volume in living cells is occupied by different macromolecules, particles and other structures. This results in strong”excluded volume'' effects, that affect molecular diffusion as well as the kinetics of enzymes. Biomolecules also interact with each other via non-specific (e.g. electrostatic) interactions. In addition to excluded volumes and non-specific interactions, the structures inside cells induces both nanoscale and microscale confinement.
All biochemical reactions and macromolecular transport that is required for the functioning of the cell occurs within this crowded and confined environment. As an effort to understand this, researchers have used a simplified version of the crowded environment in which small molecules, called crowders, mimic the dense composition of the cell. We have examined simple physical model systems - consisting of simple polymers and nano-colloid crowders - where we can study the role of macromolecular size ratios, charge, and micro- and nano-scale confinement effects on molecular diffusion. In this talk, I will report on findings using two highly complementary experimental techniques in tandem, i.e., nuclear magnetic resonance and neutron scattering, where we are able to extract very useful information about polymer structure, polymer dynamics and also crowder dynamics.
Anand Yethiraj received his PhD degree at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada in 1999. He received the International Liquid Crystal Society's Glenn Brown Award for his PhD thesis. Later he was a postdoctoral fellow at the FOM Institute AMOLF (Amsterdam), at Utrecht University and at the University of British Columbia. Since 2005, he has been at Memorial University in St. John's, Canada, where he is currently a Professor. He received the Presidents Award for Outstanding Research (2008). His current research combines microscopy, NMR and rheology to study colloidal self-assembly and macromolecular dynamics and to develop robust self-assembly techniques for patterned nanoscale and microscale materials.
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