Dissertation: “Theoretical and Biochemical: Advancing Protein Structure Investigations with Complementing Computations”

Maxim Brodmerkel defends his doctoral thesis entitled “Theoretical and Biochemical: Advancing Protein Structure Investigations with Complementing Computations”, within the subject of Biochemistry.

Opponent: Prof. Helmut Grubmüller, Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences in Göttingen, Germany

Supervisor: Erik Marklund, Biochemistry, Department of Chemistry - BMC, Uppsala University


Life as we know it today would not exist without proteins. The functions of proteins for us and other organisms are linked to their three-dimensional structures. As such, protein structure investigations are a crucial contribution for understanding proteins and the molecular basis of life. Some methods probe the structure of proteins in the gas phase, which brings various advantages as well as complications. Amongst them is mass spectrometry, a powerful method that provides a multitude of information on gaseous protein structures. Whilst mass spectrometry shines in obtaining data of the higher-order structures, atomistic details are out of reach. Molecular dynamics simulations on the other hand allow the interrogation of proteins in high-resolution, which makes it an ideal method for their structural research, be it in or out of solution.

This thesis aims to advance the understanding of protein structures and the methods for their study utilising classic molecular dynamics simulations. The research presented in this thesis can be divided into two themes, comprising the rehydration of vacuum-exposed structures and the interrogation of the induced unfolding process of proteins. Out of their native environment, proteins undergo structural changes when exposed to vacuum. Investigating the ability to revert those potential vacuum-induced structural changes by means of computational rehydration provided detailed information on the underlying protein dynamics and how much of the structure revert back to their solution norm. We have further shown through rehydration simulations that applying an external electric field for dipole-orientation purposes does not induce irreversible changes to the protein structures. Our investigations on the induced unfolding of protein structures allowed a detailed look into the process of unfolding, accurately pinpointing areas within the proteins that unfolded first. The details provided by our simulations enabled us to describe potential mechanisms of the unfolding processes of different proteins on an atomistic level. The obtained results thus provide a potent theoretical basis for current and future experiments, where it will be very interesting to see MD compared with or complemented to experiments.

Link to the thesis in DiVA.

Image of the thesis.