Klaus Schulten Memorial Symposium

The Symposium will be held on November 7-9, 2017 in the auditorium at the Beckman Institute. More information will be provided at a later date.
“When I was a young man, my goal was to look with mathematical and computational means at the inside of cells, one atom at a time, to decipher how living systems work. That is what I strived for and I never deflected from this goal.”

Klaus Schulten, professor of physics and Beckman Institute faculty member for nearly 25 years, has died after an illness. Schulten, who led the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group, was a leader in the field of biophysics, conducting seminal work in the area of molecular dynamics simulations, illuminating biological processes and structures in ways that weren’t possible before. His research focused on the structure and function of supramolecular systems in the living cell, and on the development of non-equilibrium statistical mechanical descriptions and efficient computing tools for structural biology. Schulten received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1974. At Illinois, he was Swanlund Professor of Physics and was affiliated with the Department of Chemistry as well as with the Center for Biophysics and Computational Biology; he was Director of the Biomedical Technology Research Center for Macromolecular Modeling and Bioinformatics as well as Co-Director of the Center for the Physics of Living Cells.

Highlights of our Work

Highlight: One Small Step for a Proton, One Giant Leap for Bioenergetics

Proton-coupled electron transfer at the bc1 complex

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Cellular respiration and photosynthesis are the primary energy production mechanisms for sustaining life on earth. Both processes use input energy (food or sunlight) to drive coupled electron and proton transfer reactions, thus replenishing the electrical charge of the cellular membrane, which in turn is used to produce ATP - the universal fuel for all cellular activities. A key step involved in both bacterial photosynthesis and mitochondrial respiration is mediated by a specialized protein complex, the bc1 complex, which seizes the energy released from interconversion of quinol and quinone to pump protons across the bioenergetic membrane. A recent study, combining molecular simulations performed with NAMD and quantum chemical calculations, unveiled the coupled nature of the proton and electron transfer reactions in the quinol binding site of the bc1 complex from a photosynthetic bacterium at an unprecedented level and described the role of key mechanistic elements. More about the bc1 complex can be found here.

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Abhi Singharoy, Postdoctoral Associate


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