CAREER: Development of gas-phase, post-ionization structural tools for the study of DNA-protein complexes. Grant

CAREER: Development of gas-phase, post-ionization structural tools for the study of DNA-protein complexes. .


  • With support from the Chemical Measurement and Imaging Program in the Division of Chemistry and co-funding from the Molecular Biophysics Cluster of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, Professor Francisco Fernandez-Lima and his group at Florida International University are developing new analysis tools integrating structural biology techniques to characterize DNA-protein interactions critical to understanding biological and biochemical processes. Many important biochemical and biological systems are not amenable to traditional analytical approaches (e.g., magnetic resonance or X-ray crystallography), creating a need for new and complementary methods to better characterize biomolecules and biomolecular complexes. Dr. Fernandez-Lima's mass spectrometry (MS)-based approaches offer significant enhancement of characterization capabilities. In parallel with these research efforts, he plans a multi-level outreach approach integrating a seminar series, undergraduate and graduate courses, museum open-house events, hands-on MS experiences, summer internships, and development of a virtual MS experiment series. Partnering with local K-12 schools, neighboring community colleges, and student training programs at FIU, this plan aims to enhance learning and exposure to modern MS techniques and to recruit students from underrepresented minorities into science, technology, engineering and mathematics.By integrating mass spectrometry (MS), trapped ion mobility spectrometry (TIMS), hydrogen/deuterium back-exchange (HDX) and ion spectroscopy techniques, Prof. Fernandez-Lima and his group are studying intrinsically disordered systems, with a focus on DNA-binding proteins and DNA-protein complexes. This new experimental approach has the potential to transform the way we interrogate biological molecules, providing detailed, useful structural information on co-existing states in the conformational ensemble (e.g., equilibrium and kinetic intermediates). Experiments target new structural information, employing mobility-selected conformation interrogation to enable study of conformational changes from solution to the gas-phase, and providing information on the energy barriers for conformational rearrangement and their time scales. The research outcomes of this project may impact our fundamental understanding of the structural motifs that drive the folding and unfolding of biomolecules and biomolecular complexes. In addition, an outreach educational program "FIUMASS: MS Experience for All" has been established at Florida International University to increase the exposure of graduate, undergraduate, and high school minority students to the practical aspects of structural mass spectrometry.

date/time interval

  • February 1, 2017 - January 31, 2023

administered by

sponsor award ID

  • 1654274