Metals play essential roles in life. Even general public is aware of this, just think of iron in blood or vitamin B12. Nevertheless, a deeper understanding of mechanisms of action of metals in metalloproteins can radically transform our capacity to improve health and well-being. It can furthermore lead to development of novel biotechnological solutions for pressing environmental problems.
TIMB3 takes up the challenge of performing innovative research on metalloproteins using biospectroscopy, which will provide detailed molecular insights into the role of diverse metals in biology. The key target systems are metal homeostasis and trafficking in living cells, biogenesis of essential metallocofactors and biocatalysis by metalloenzymes.
Besides the host institution, ITQB-NOVA, TIMB3 involves two partners, CIRMMP (Florence, Italy) and the Technical University of Berlin, which possess unmatched expertise in Magnetic Resonance and Vibrational spectroscopies. The project envisages a number of scientific exchange missions among the partners, and a series of training events on scientific and soft skills. Furthermore, ITQB-NOVA will create a Virtual Platform for Biospectroscopy to be used by non-specialists; they will learn about the potential of this versatile group of methods and its applicability to their specific research problems, broadening the social awareness of the capacities of biospectroscopy.
>Project Scientific Targets
>Project Scientific Targets
Two joint research themes underlie the implementation of TIMB3 - bioinspired catalysis and metal trafficking and homeostasis.
Metal based (bio)catalysis
Numerous chemical transformations that are key to maintaining the current living standards of industrialized societies and to redirect industrial activity towards a more sustainable operation are catalyzed by metalloenzymes. The development of novel bioinspired catalysts that replace low abundance elements such as rare earth metals that are becoming critically scarce and a source of geopolitical instability is a current priority. Moreover, metalloenzymes are optimized by nature to catalyze diverse (bio)chemical transformations, and significant research efforts are being made to employ these biocatalysts to perform useful biotechnological and industrial processes.
Metal homeostasis and trafficking
The balancing act of metal homeostasis in living organisms plays an important role in health and disease. For example, Zinc is the only transition metal found in all classes of enzymes whereas Iron and Copper play key roles in dealing with oxygen in biological systems. Their roles are seemingly endless but when not properly regulated their participation in oxidative stress and protein misfolding makes them primary targets in the managing of age related diseases which are a growing burden to healthcare systems.
Biospectroscopy was selected because it has the unique potential to explore the structure and dynamics of biomolecules at the atomic level. It is therefore specifically suited to illuminate (pun intended) the molecular mechanisms of biological processes and enable their rational adaptation to socially valuable applications.
Electron paramagnetic resonance