BioMediTech Research Groups

Protein Dynamics

Group Leader: Associate Professor Vesa Hytönen

vesa.hytonen(at)uta.fi

About Us

We use experimental and computational methods to elucidate the relationship between protein conformation and function. Conformational changes in proteins occur in adaptation to chemical and physical signals that arise from interactions with other molecules, and also as a result of chemical modifications. The correct conformational changes are often essential for their relevant biological functions. Our research focuses on the proteins in cellular adhesion sites called focal adhesions and in particular, our aim is to understand the mechanisms behind cellular mechanosensing. These studies involve molecular dynamics simulations, biochemical and biophysical analyses and various cellular assays, such as quantification of cell migration and determination of cell traction force. This research is conducted in collaboration with an international team made up of members from Switzerland, Great Britain, the USA, Germany and Finland.

We also are involved in the development of both vaccines against enteroviruses and diagnostic tools for their detection in collaboration with the Karolinska Institutet (Prof. Flodström-Tullberg) and research groups lead by Prof. Hyöty and Dr. Blazevic at UTA. Our aim is to develop innovative vaccines and rapid diagnostic methods for viruses. For these studies, our group focuses on molecular modelling, protein production and biophysical characterization. We are specifically interested in virus-like particles which are actively being developed.

Finally, we are also developing novel molecular tools for avidin-biotin technology and we utilize them in a variety of applications in areas such as biomaterial science, biosensor research and bionanotechnology. We also offer purified engineered avidins for the research community via Protein Shop.

Research interests and expertise

Our group has expertise ranging from molecular modelling and simulations to cell models with particular strengths in protein production, purification and characterization. We have equipment and the relevant expertise for biophysical methods including biosensing, calorimetry, fluorescence spectroscopy, light scattering and chromatographic methods. Furthermore, in combination with collaborators, we are involved in preclinical analyses and we also study clinical samples in order to understand the connection between cellular signaling and diseases.

Achievements

  • Production of prototype vaccines based on Virus-Like Particles.
  • Detailed biophysical characterization of talin mechanobiology.
  • Wide array of genetically engineered avidins, including Regenerable Switchavidin, Dual-chain and Single-chain avidins, Ultrastable chimeric avidin.
  • Protein Shop for distribution of the protein samples for research community.

Infrastructure

  • Protein expression in E. coli, baculovirus-insect cell system and eukaryotic cells
  • Chromatography facilities, Surface Plasmon Resonance and Biolayer Interferometry biosensors, Light Scattering analysis equipment (DLS, SLS, LC-SLS/DLS), Calorimetry (ITC, DSC),well-equipped Fluorescence Spectroscopy instrumentation.
  • Molecular Modelling, Molecular Dynamics Simulations, Steered Molecular Dynamics, Prediction of changes in protein structure-function due to mutagenesis.

Collaboration offer and requests

Our international team welcomes researchers for postdoctoral research visits. We are eager to strengthen our network in the aforementioned research focus areas and to utilize and actively develop modern, cutting edge methods.

Major Publications

  1. Mechanical stability of talin rod controls traction force generation and cell migration. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-03335-2
  2. 3D-Printable Bioactivated Nanocellulose-Alginate Hydrogels. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsami.7b02756
  3. A Coxsackievirus B Vaccine Protects Against Virus-Induced Diabetes in an Experimental Mouse Model for Type 1 Diabetes. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00125-017-4492-z
  4. All Subdomains of the Talin Rod Are Mechanically Vulnerable and May Contribute To Cellular Mechanosensing. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsnano.6b01658
  5. Toward Single Electron Nanoelectronics Using Self-Assembled DNA Structure. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.nanolett.6b02378
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