University of California, Irvine, Department of Biological Sciences, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Dr. Alexander McPherson
(Ph.D. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, 1970)
Microgravity research on macromolecular
crystal growth; X-ray and diffraction analysis of protein,
nucleic acid and virus crystals; Atomic Force Microscopy studies
of biological structures.
Microgravity research on macromolecular crystal growth; X-ray and diffraction analysis of protein, nucleic acid and virus crystals; Atomic Force Microscopy studies of biological structures.
Research is divided among a number of areas focused ultimately on the determination and description of biological structure, principally at the molecular level, but extending to the organelle and cellular as well. The primary techniques employed are X-ray crystallography, atomic force microscopy, quasi elastic light scatting and optical interferometry. In support of the application of these biophysical methods we employ a wide range of conventional biochemical, as well as molecular biological techniques. Of chief interest in terms of molecular structure are intact immunoglobulins, whose dynamics we hope to reveal through a series of static, X-ray derived images, and small spherical viruses for which we are attempting to define the molecular structures and mechanisms involved in assembly. To promote our research in structure determination, a major interest is in the growth of macromolecular crystals. Using AFM and QELS we are attempting to elucidate the phase transition phenomenon leading to nucleation, and the mechanisms, kinetic factors, and thermodynamic parameters fundamental to the crystal growth process. Among the diverse approaches utilized, is crystallization of macromolecules in microgravity, including missions aboard the U.S. Space Shuttle and the Russian Space Station Mir. These experiments allow us, in many instances, to improve the quality of crystals used in our analyses and hence, the precision of the molecular structures derived form those crystals.
1) Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Biochemistry
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