Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Watery Research Theme to Flow Through New Tokmakoff Lab

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Andrei Tokmakoff to use the world’s shortest infrared light pulses to pluck molecular bonds.

Once Andrei Tokmakoff gets his new laser laboratory operational later this year, he will use the world’s shortest infrared light pulses to pluck molecular bonds like a stringed musical instrument.

Tokmakoff, the Henry G. Gale Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry, arrived at the University of Chicago in January to tackle new problems in biology with the aid of ultrafast vibrational spectroscopy methods that he has developed.

“He does very sophisticated spectroscopy, in particular vibrational spectroscopy,” said Richard Jordan, professor and chairman of chemistry. “He has developed advanced, laser-based methods that can probe how the bonds in molecules stretch and bend.”

Tokmakoff’s hire is a major component of the chemistry department’s effort to expand from its current 22 faculty members to 27 or 28 within the next two years.

“We have targeted three or four important areas to build in. One of them is biological chemistry, those aspects of chemistry that deal with biological problems,” Jordan said.

Tokmakoff does both physical and biophysical chemistry. Physical chemistry - studying the behavior of materials and chemical reactions at the atomic and molecular level - has a long tradition of excellence at UChicago.

Biophysical chemistry has emerged more recently as a major campus initiative that encompasses the James Franck Institute and the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics (Tokmakoff is a member of both) and the Biophysical Sciences Program.

A special liquid
Tokmakoff seeks to understand the special behavior of liquid water, protein-water interactions, and the dynamics of protein folding and binding. This includes how hydrogen bonds connect different molecules to one another and how these bonds rearrange themselves so that the liquid flows.

“These are not phenomena that can be described simply in terms of the motion of one molecule,” said Tokmakoff, formerly of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Many of the reasons why it’s so vital to life processes also originate not just as one individual molecule, but how they all collectively interact with biological molecules.”

Tokmakoff generates light bursts at 40-femtosecond intervals with ultrafast vibrational spectroscopy. “Light travels the diameter of a cell or a small pollen grain in that time,” he said. Molecules barely move in 40 femtoseconds (a quadrillionth of a second), which corresponds to the period of a molecular bond vibration.

These ultra-short pulses of infrared radiation “act a bit like stop-motion photography,” Tokmakoff said. Although it’s not real photography, “a sequence of ultra-short bursts of light can capture the motion of an object by freezing it at different points in time. We don’t physically image the molecules, but infrared radiation interacts with the bond vibrations of water,” he said. These interactions reveal the structure of the object in question.

“Through a sequence of these pulses we can design experiments that give us a lot of information about the molecular structure before it changes, even if it is constantly moving,” Tokmakoff explained.

At MIT, Tokmakoff applied ultrafast spectroscopic methods to key problems in chemistry. He discovered that the molecular structure of water evolves in big jumps when the molecules collectively change the connectivity of their hydrogen bonds. “It’s a very strange behavior, but the fact that water does this and does it often really makes it a liquid and allows it to flow.”

“Beyond water we’re also applying the same sorts of methods to a lot of problems in molecular biophysics. Many of the problems that exist there share the characteristics with water that they are messy, complicated, constantly evolving molecular structures,” Tokmakoff said, including protein folding.

Disordered yet functional
Tokmakoff’s group has a special interest in disordered proteins. Molecular biologists primarily conceive of proteins as well-defined, three-dimensional, biologically active structures. “The reason we conceive them that way is because that’s what our experiments tell us,” he said. In fact, many proteins are either partially or fully disordered, yet they can still be functional.

Scientists often talk of proteins connecting like a lock and key, but that analogy falls far short of explaining how two structurally disorganized molecules manage to find and then connect with one another.

Two proteins exhibiting no apparent structure wander around randomly in a cell. When they encounter one another they somehow know that they were made for each other, and they often do this with more efficiency and speed than current theory can explain.

“You’ve got one molecule of thousands and thousands in a cell, and somehow it’s miraculously going to find its one partner and do it so efficiently-it’s just mind-boggling,” Tokmakoff said. Tucked into the many aspects of that problem is the molecular fine print: how a protein recognizes and binds to its partner.

Many classes of proteins exhibit such behavior, and Tokmakoff would like to unlock the secret to that behavior. “We’re in the middle of all kinds of cool experiments,” he said.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 5,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Manipulation of Liquid Crystals Could Help Control Drug-Delivery Process
Computer modeling, real-world testing yields new method.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Liquid Crystal Manipulation Controls Drug-Delivery Process
Scientists have turned liquid crystals into a tool to control the shape of synthetic cell membranes.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Grad Student's Finding Enables Rapid Compound Screening
Grad student makes technical leap that could enable rapid screening of anti-cancer compounds.
Friday, August 19, 2016
From Fins to Fingers
New gene-editing methods help the mapping of cells linking fish fins and mammalian limbs.
Friday, August 19, 2016
New Technique Targets Ataxia Gene
Scientists selectively turn off the disease-causing portion of a gene that causes a severe form of ataxia.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Organ Behaviour Manipulation Possible with New Injectable
Scientists develop injectable that could be used to stimulate nerve cells and manipulate muscle and organ behaviour.
Friday, July 08, 2016
New Microbiome Center to Merge Expertise of UChicago, MBL and Argonne
Researchers to study world of microbes across environments.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
AbbVie, University of Chicago Collaborate
The University of Chicago and AbbVie have entered into a five-year collaboration agreement designed to improve the pace of discovery and advance medical research in oncology at both organizations.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
New Code for Control of Gene Expression
A new cellular signal discovered by a team of scientists at the University of Chicago and Tel Aviv University provides a promising new lever in the control of gene expression.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Bacterial Circadian Clocks Set by Metabolism, Not Light
New study finds that metabolism is the primary driver of the circadian rhythm.
Monday, December 14, 2015
New Nanomanufacturing Technique Advances Imaging, Biosensing Technology
Researchers invent a novel way to build nanolenses in large arrays using a combination of chemical and lithographic techniques.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Enormous Genetic Variation May Shield Tumors from Treatment
Debate over Darwinian selection vs. random mutations emerges at the tumor level.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Gut Bacteria Can Dramatically Amplify Cancer Immunotherapy
Manipulating microbes maximizes tumor immunity in mice.
Monday, November 09, 2015
Protein Aggregation After Heat Shock Is An Organized, Reversible Response
New study finds protein aggregation after heat exposure is a reversible cellular process, not unrecoverable damage from misfolding.
Friday, September 11, 2015
New Form of DNA Modification May Carry Inheritable Information
Scientists have described the surprising discovery and function of a new DNA modification in insects, worms and algae.
Friday, May 08, 2015
Scientific News
Point of Care Diagnostics - A Cautious Revolution
Advances in molecular biology, coupled with the miniaturization and improved sensitivity of assays and devices in general, have enabled a new wave of point-of-care (POC) or “bedside” diagnostics.
Mass Spec Technology Drives Innovation Across the Biopharma Workflow
With greater resolving power, analytical speed, and accuracy, new mass spectrometry technology and techniques are infiltrating the biopharmaceuticals workflow.
One Step Closer to Precision Medicine for Chronic Lung Disease Sufferers
A study led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and National Jewish Health, has provided evidence of links between SNPs and known COPD blood protein biomarkers.
Modified Yeast Shows Plant Response to Key Hormone
Researchers have developed a toolkit based on modified yeast to determine plant responses to auxin.
Adipose Tissue Secretes Factors That Activate Metabolism
Study finds brown adipose tissue secretes signalling factors that activates metabolism of fat and carbohydrates.
Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria In America's Water System
Antibiotic resistant bacteria live inside drinking water distribution systems blamed for rising healthcare costs.
ReadCoor Launched to Commercialize 3D Sequencing Tech
ReadCoor will leverage the Wyss Institute’s method for simultaneously sequencing and mapping RNAs within cells and tissues to advance development of diagnostics.
Ancient Eggshell Protein Breaks Through DNA Time Barrier
Fossil proteins from a 3.8million year-old eggshell have been identifed, suggests proteins could give insight into evolutionary tree.
Monkeys Protected by Zika DNA Vaccine
Experimental Zika virus DNA vaccines successfully protected monkeys against Zika infection.
Nanosensors Could Determine Tumours’ Ability to Remodel Tissue
Researchers design nanosensors that can profile tumours, focusing on protease levels.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,000+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!