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Intrinsically disordered proteins from a polymer physics perspective

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The discovery of intrinsically unfolded or disordered proteins (IDPs) approximately 20 years ago has caused a paradigm shift away from the original picture that it is mainly protein structure which determines protein function. Rather, IDPs constitute a crucial fraction of the proteins in a living organism and are defined by their lack of a stable, ordered three-dimensional structure.

The proposed internship is part of a collaborative project that aims at :
(1) characterizing the conformations sampled by model IDPs under different well-controlled conditions,
(2) studying how these conformations depend on the chemical properties of the IDPs, and 
(3) understanding how and why small differences in chemical properties and conformations lead to large differences in self-assembly pathways of IDPs.

The project will combine state-of-the-art neutron and X-ray techniques and coarse grained simulations. The proposed internship focuses on modeling IDPs in aqueous solutions, a challenging task due to a large number of distinct conformational states explored by them. Recently, several coarse-grained (CG) models have been developed to accurately reproduce structural properties of IDPs. We will employ molecular dynamics simulations to explore CG models with two approaches, namely implicit and explicit solvent simulations, to treat solvent molecules (i.e. water). Structural and dynamical properties of the proteins will be investigated as a function of protein concentration. The computational study will be complemented by an experimental work, where the rheological properties of the protein solution will be investigated. During this project, the candidate will get a unique opportunity to explore theoretical modeling and experimental approaches in research. 

The thesis will be carried out in collaboration between the Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire de Physique (LIPhy) and the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble. The experimental part (rheology) will take place in the laboratories of the Partnership for Soft Condensed Matter (ILL-ESRF).

Contacts :
Tilo Seydel (,
Tatiana Morozova (,
Olga Matsarskaia (,
Jean-Louis Barrat (