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Mad Micelle
Robert Renthal '67 (faculty), Derek Mendez (undergraduate), Liao Chen (faculty)
Department of Biology, University of Texas at San Antonio
To understand the forces involved in the assembly of cell membranes, we pull membrane proteins apart. We embedded a red blood cell protein, glycophorin, in a cluster of detergent molecules called a micelle. Using the computer technique of molecular dynamics simulation, we grabbed glycophorin and pulled it apart. When we displayed the molecular surface of the micelle with the protein shown in outline form, the micelle seemed to be glaring back at us, perhaps giving us a view, at an emotional level, of the forces that hold membranes together.