Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Dept., University of Delaware
Proteins play key roles for the functionalities of many biological systems and have been main effective components in many cancer treatment drugs. Because they often work in concentrated solutions either in vitro or in vivo, it is critical to understand the structure of concentrated protein solutions, with which the macroscopic properties of the solutions can be understood or predicted. The complicated shape and heterogeneous surface properties make it very challenging to model proteins both accurately and efficiently. Experimentally, because of their small sizes, it is extremely difficult to directly image their solution structures. Scattering techniques, such as neutron scattering, x-ray scattering and light scatterings, are still the primary tools to investigate the structure of protein solutions.
During this talk, I will present my personal perspective of the opportunities and challenges in studying protein solution structures using colloidal theories in conjunction with scattering techniques. Especially, I will discuss the recent progresses of understanding the phase behavior of protein systems with both a short-range attraction and a long-range repulsion. The competition of these two potential features leads to the formation of an unique fluid structure, the intermediate range order, in solution. Research examples will be discussed to show the profound impacts of this intermediate range order on both the equilibrium and non-equilibrium phase diagrams of a system with competing interactions.