What we do
There are many biological processes that depend on the interaction between peptides/proteins and membrane lipids, such as viral fusion, translocation across epithelia or innate immune defense. Some of these may be inspiring to develop new innovative therapeutical tools. The goal of the Physical Biochemistry Unit is to unravel the physical principles that govern lipid-peptide interactions, with implications in viral fusion (HIV and Dengue virus are of particular interest), analgesia, antimicrobials and transfection agents. Peptide-lipid biomembranes interactions are ubiquitous in the living world and a fertile ground for drug discovery and development. At the UBqF we are interest not only in drug targets and drug discovery itself, but also in the molecular-level mechanism of action of drugs that are known for their therapeutic efficacy and safety. More recently, we are focused on the central nervous system and translocation of the blood-brain barrier.
Our goal is to solve problems related to the structure of molecular systems in biological membranes. Many antibiotics, such as peptides or anti-fungi polyenes, act at the cell membranes level. We quantify the partition extent into the membrane, molecular in-depth location, orientation and whether molecules are clustering and/or segregated in lipidic rafts. Kyotorphin (analgesic di-peptide), Filipin (polyene antibiotic), Pep-1 (a vector peptide for macromolecular translocation across the membrane), an antimicrobial peptide related to indolocidin, and HIV-1 fusion inhibitor peptides are currently under study in our lab.
Most of the research being carried out at the physical biochemistry unit is related to the biophysics of membrane-active peptides, mainly:
- Analgesic peptides
- Cell-penetrating and antimicrobial peptides
- Viral-related peptides
- Anticancer peptides
All aspects of the biochemistry, biophysics and clinical correlations of these molecules are important to us.
Miguel A. R. B. Castanho - Homepage