The University’s new Collaborative Research Centre (CRC), “Structural Dynamics of GPCR Activation and Signal Transduction”, will focus on how cells communicate via important receptors. Its spokesperson will be Professor Annette G. Beck-Sickinger.
“Structural Dynamics of GPCR Activation and Signal Transduction” (SFB 1423)
Cells communicate with each other and their environment via receptors. These are located in the cell wall and recognise a specific signal, which they transmit inside the cell and thus cause the cell to react. G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest group of these membrane receptors and found in almost all living organisms. GPCRs have a pivotal role in medicine: approximately 30 per cent of all prescription drugs act via these receptors, but so far the potential of only a small group of receptors has been exploited. “In the past, there was a significant focus on developing an understanding of molecular processes. However, the way GPCRs interact with the body’s own hormones as well as drugs is far more complex than previously thought. In the new CRC, we want to investigate how peptide receptors and adhesion receptors – GPCRs that have so far been the subject of little research – interact with their partners. By elucidating their dynamic structural states, it will be possible to understand how they function. This will ultimately enable us to develop novel drugs for this group of GPCRs as well,” explained Professor Annette G. Beck-Sickinger, spokesperson of SFB 1423.
To strengthen its position in this field, this year Leipzig University secured an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship, which will be filled from 1 January 2020 by the chemist and bioinformatics researcher Professor Jens Meiler. He is one of the world’s most distinguished researchers in the field of computer-aided drug discovery. “We use digital simulations and artificial intelligence to model GPCRs on computers. With these methods, in the SFB 1423 we will be able to propose targeted experiments that will accelerate research,” explains Meiler. Together with Vanderbilt University, where he worked for 15 years, a graduate school for junior researchers will be established and two visiting professorships hosted, so-called Mercator Fellows.