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Vikas Nanda

Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
Assistant Professor

Resident Faculty Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine

Molecular Biosciences Bio page
Personal page

Room 206
679 Hoes Lane
Piscataway, NJ 08854

Telephone: 848-445-9810
Facsimile: 732-235-4850

Protein Design and Evolution

How do proteins fold? Why are proteins tolerant to mutations? How did homochirality of the natural amino acids emerge? These and many other questions arise because we are constantly amazed by the diversity of function and complexity of structure of proteins and other biomolecules. An important approach to answering these problems is the deconstruction of natural proteins by genetic engineering and biophysical methods, attempting to separate features that contribute to structure, stability and function. In addition to this, our group uses a bottom-up approach – trying to design proteins from scratch that recapitulate natural features.

  • Chirality: One project in the lab is the design of peptides and proteins where we deviate from the established chirality of the 20 ribosomally encoded amino acids. Using computational methods developed for de novo protein design, we are exploring the fundamental relationship between chirality and the stability/flexibility of peptide chains. Additionally, we are developing heterochiral mini-proteins (HCMPs) that will specifically target protein-protein interfaces.
  • Tolerance: A second interest in the lab is how proteins manage to robustly maintain a folded structure when mutated. This is clearly an emergent property of proteins that has resulted from the evolutionary process. We are exploring this feature of proteins by analyzing the nucleotide sequences of natural proteins evidence of bias to mutational tolerance. We hope to extend this understanding to the creation of highly plastic designer proteins that can be easily edited to accommodate new functions.