Microgravity advances protein crystallization

Sergey Korolev, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biochemistry, received a grant from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to advance crystallization of medically relevant proteins using microgravity. As part of this project, CASIS will assist Dr. Korolev in coordinating access to the International Space Station National Laboratory (ISS NL) for the purposes of using the microgravity environment and a counter-diffusion method to improve the crystal quality of two key proteins: human calcium-independent phospholipase PLA2g6 and prothrombin. Both proteins are essential players in the cardiovascular system and inflammatory cascades.

The microgravity environment will facilitate the solution of an atomic resolution structure and will help obtain better crystals, revealing the conformation of the proteins and allowing for analysis of the functional sites. These structural studies will permit development of new therapeutic approaches to treat multiple devastating diseases. Thrombin is one of the most important pharmacological targets in blood coagulation, while the PLA2g6 protein is a novel promising target for cardiovascular disease as well as for muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes.

The overall mission of CASIS is the advancement of educational and scientific research in connection with the ISS NL. Among CASIS’s goals are efforts to fully utilize the ISS NL and enable technology that enhances utilization of the ISS NL by commercial interests, other government agencies, and educational entities.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology