Graduate Program Affiliations
- BISI-Physiological Systems (PSYS)
- BISI-Molecular & Cellular Biology (MOCB)
Dr. Sukharev investigates the principles and the molecules that cells use to detect mechanical force and pressure. Mechanosensation encompasses many phenomena from the relatively simple such as bacterial adaptation to osmotic changes in the medium to the very complex such as hearing and balance in animals, or gravitropism in plants; yet many primary receptors responsible for force detection remain unidentified as molecular entities. Mechanosensitive channels that conduct ions across the plasma membrane in response to membrane tension are thought to be primary transducers that convert mechanical stimuli into the form of cellular signals. Dr. Sukharev has made the major effort in isolation and cloning of the Mechanosensitive Channel of Large conductance of Escherichia coli (MscL), the first identified channel of this class. When the closed-state crystal structure of a MscL homolog became available, Dr. Sukharev focused his research on prediction of MscL structure in the open state. His current study addresses the nature of interactions inside the MscL protein that keep the channel firmly closed at rest, but allow it to open under tension of a certain magnitude. The group is also approaching the mechanism of gating of the small bacterial Mechanosensitive Channel, MscS. These interdisciplinary projects involve molecular modeling and simulations, genetic modifications of the channel genes, disulfide cross-linking, biochemical purification of proteins and reconstitution into phospholipid membranes; single-channel recording and video imaging of patch-clamped membranes; kinetic and thermodynamic analysis of the channel behavior.
J. W. Ritter Award, 1988
University of Maryland, College of Life Sciences Junior Faculty Award, 2000
Ph.D., Moscow State University, 1987. Molecular mechanisms of mechanosensation; mechano-activated ion channels, their structure and mechanisms of gating by membrane stretch.