MSUToday
Published: June 19, 2020

Understanding protein interactions for COVID-19 treatments

Contact(s): Adele Han Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research office: (517) 884-7829 hanxiaox@msu.edu, Beth Brauer University Communications Beth.Brauer-Delaney@cabs.msu.edu

Alex Dickson is an assistant professor at MSU in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He and his group of researchers are using computer simulations to gain greater insights into the structure, dynamics and interactions of biological molecules. One interaction of interest is between the ACE2 enzyme in human cells and the S1 subunit of the spike protein in COVID-19.

The spike protein is on the viral capsid and its binding to the ACE2 enzyme is the primary interaction that leads to the virus entering the human cell and the replication of infected cells. Dickson’s group is studying the structure and dynamics of the ACE2 enzyme and how its structure can be impacted by different small drug molecules.

One researcher in Dickson’s group, Arzu Uyar, specifically uses molecular dynamics simulations and machine learning methods to understand the changes in the ACE2 enzyme and spike protein during the binding process. Uyar is a postdoctoral research associate whose expertise is in studying protein motions.

To read the full story and view a video with the researchers, go to ICER.

Alex Dickson, a computational chemist, has received the highly competitive American Chemical Society, or ACS, OpenEye Outstanding Junior Faculty Award in Computational Chemistry.