If scientists can control cellular functions such as movement and development, they can cripple cells and pathogens that are causing disease in the body.
Supported by National Institutes of Health grants, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Tennessee, and the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Computational Sciences discovered a molecular “switch” in a receptor that controls cell behavior using detailed molecular dynamics simulations on a computer called Anton built by D.E. Shaw Research in New York City. To study an even larger signaling complex surrounding the switch, the team is expanding these simulations on Titan—the nation’s most powerful supercomputer, managed by the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility at ORNL.
Researchers identified the molecular switch on Anton (which was designed to perform speedy molecular dynamics simulations) by simulating 140,000 atoms that make up the signaling part of the Tsr chemoreceptor that controls motility in E. coli. Like other receptors, Tsr spans the cell membrane, communicating to proteins inside the cell in order to respond to threats or opportunities in the environment. [Read more…]