In this project, the International Structural Proteomics group develops methods to elucidate protein structures and interactions on a proteome-wide level. To this end, the group combines mass spectrometry with crosslinking technologies and methods such as hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDX), to detect very complex interaction networks instead of single proteins. New insights into such networks re not only of vast importance for basic research on biological systems and diseases, but can also be directly employed for the identification of target molecules for new drugs.
The group mainly concentrates on signalling networks in cells and on the biological processes in platelets, as these aspects play a crucial role in many diseases. Currently, their research focuses on the protein network in mitochondria, as these cell organelles contain a comparatively small number of proteins: only about one thousand in contrast to several ten thousand proteins in the whole cell. By means of genetically manipulated mitochondria derived from external cooperation partners, changes in protein interaction and their secondary effects are being analysed. In addition, the group develops the necessary software for their MS analyses to improve the detection of cross-linked proteins. As soon as the method works reliably, it will be extended by and by to whole cells.