Smith is studying brain regions in the basal ganglia, which help govern how we both choose and implement specific actions. These regions are linked to schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.
“We care because we are explorers and risk takers who have signed up for the hard work, the seemingly impossible tasks—because we know the rewards.”
In the bustling setting of the cell, proteins encounter each other by the thousands. Despite the hubbub, each one manages to selectively interact with just the right partners thanks to specific contact regions on its surface. However, these regions have remained far more mysterious than might be expected, especially given decades of research into protein structure and function. Salk Professor Vicki Lundblad and co–first authors John Lubin and Timothy Tucey, now at Monash University, developed a new method to discover which surface contacts on proteins are critical for these cellular interactions. Their approach shows that essential new functions can be uncovered even for well-studied proteins, and has significant implications for therapeutic drug development, which depends heavily on how drugs physically interact with their cellular targets. The paper appeared in the early-access online version of Genetics on November 29, 2017.