Understanding Ph-Dependent Protein Behavior Using Advanced Continuim Theory
Many medical conditions, including heart disease, can lead to a loss of blood flow to certain tissues, which can impair the cells’ ability to maintain an appropriate concentration of hydrogen ions (protons) inside. This microscopic failure can cascade towards heart failure, stroke, and death, making it crucial to understand how proton concentration (a quantity measured in pH) affects the behavior of different proteins in the cell. An excellent example of pHs importance in human life may be found in the protein hemoglobin, which carries oxygen through the blood. The chemical byproduct of muscle exertion (for example, during exercise) is a lowered pH near the muscle, which causes hemoglobin to release more of its oxygen just where it is needed. We have a new theory that predicts how protein function depends on pH, and initial results suggest that the new theory may be an accurate model of pH dependence of proteins. In contrast, many existing models exhibit unexplained weaknesses that have not been resolved despite intense research.
PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Many diseases impair our cells’ ability to maintain the right concentration of hydrogen ions inside. Because this microscopic failure can cascade towards heart failure or stroke, it is crucial to understand how this hydrogen concentration, a quantity known as pH, can affect protein behavior. In this project, we will test a new theory of pH-dependent protein function, which seems to be significantly better than existing theories.
Northeastern University’s College of Engineering is home to numerous federally-funded research centers and an array of leading-edge projects and initiatives that advance discovery and new knowledge in health, sustainability, and security.