Physics Colloquium - Friday, May 2nd, 2008, 3:00 P.M.

(Note special time!)
E300 Math/Science Center; Refreshments at 2:30 P.M. in Room E200

Erik Luijten
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Self-assembly of rod-like polyelectrolytes: from materials to cystic fibrosis

Electrostatic interactions play an important role in many biological problems and can lead to counterintuitive phenomena. I will highlight a number of problems in this area that we have addressed by means of computational methods. Specifically, we have used Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics simulations to better understand the self-assembly of stiff polyelectrolytes (charged polymers). Such molecules, e.g. filamentous actin, form close-packed bundles in the presence of multivalent ions or proteins. We elucidate the mechanism of this self-assembly process and are able to make direct comparison to experimental results obtained via small-angle x-ray scattering. I will also demonstrate how these findings pertain to fighting bacterial infections in cystic fibrosis patients.

[1] Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 104, 15994-15999 (2007).
[2] Phys. Rev. Lett. 99, 138302 (2007).
[3] Biophys. J. 90, 4630-4638 (2006).