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Science and Mathematics

Transient Interactions with Biological Polymers: Structure and Transport

February 4, 2020 at 3:30pm5:00pm EST

Physics Building, 202/204

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Loren Hough is an assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder. This speaker is a candidate for a faculty position in the Department of Physics, part of the cluster hiring initiative in the BioInspired Institute.

 Abstract: It is often assumed that biological interactions have to be sufficiently strong to be important. However, there is increasing evidence that, as is typical in many soft-condensed matter systems, the collective effects of many transient interactions may be a primary determinant of the behavior of many biological systems, especially those formed by biopolymers. Flexible polymers are ubiquitous in biology; they carry genetic information, are major sites of regulation and form filters. For example, biopolymer filters include mucus that protects our bodies, extracellular matrix that protects our cells and the nuclear pore complex which protects our DNA. In my lab, we combine in cell and solution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, synthetic biopolymer materials, optical imaging, macroscopic mechanical models, and theory to understand how transient interactions control the structure of biopolymers and enable them to perform key biological functions. This talk will focus on two problems. In the first example, I will show how binding to flexible filaments gives rise to unexpected diffusive properties that contribute to selective motion through biological filters. In the second example, I will describe how transient interactions of polymeric tails that coat the surface of microtubules alter their mesoscopic mechanical properties.

This event was first published on January 27, 2020 and last updated on January 28, 2020.

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