A highly active research area originates in optogenetics: the objects of investigation are protein molecules that use light to control processes in nerve cells in the brain. Depending on the exposure, these proteins initiate the transport of cations into or out of the cell, thereby putting the neuron in an active or dormant state. At the same time, they act as filters that only allow certain cations to pass through. Valentin Gordeliy's international team was able to reveal these relationships through X-ray structure analysis on crystals of a protein molecule called KR2 from the marine bacterium Krokinobacter eikastus. Basing on this, the team produced a variant that transports K ions through the targeted exchange of individual amino acids in this molecule, which can transport Na cations - a process that occurs much more frequently in nature. Research continues into other designed proteins that can transport Ca and other elements under light control. Such an arsenal of light-controlled cation pumps, which can switch neurons on and off in a controlled manner, provides brain research with valuable tools for researching neuronal circuits. (See also Peter Zekert: "Shining Future", effzett 2 (2015), 14-15.)


Prof. Dr. Valentin Gordeliy