Nikolay Dokholyan, PhD, MS
Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Penn State Neuroscience Institute
The mission of Dr. Nikolay Dokholyan's laboratory is to develop and apply integrated computational and experimental strategies to understand, sense and control misfolded proteins in order to uncover the etiologies of human neurodegenerative diseases and develop therapeutics to fight them.
The lab aims to understand the molecular disease mechanisms of ALS: How does the misfolding of superoxide dismutase (SOD1) lead to the formation of toxic oligomeric intermediates? Using biochemical and biophysical approaches and innovative computation, the Dokholyan lab determined putative structures of SOD1 oligomers and is currently elucidating the downstream pathways that lead to motorneuron death. Structures of toxic oligomers provide targets for drug discovery, which the lab is pursuing.
Neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and prion diseases share similar processes associated with protein misfolding and aggregation. These similarities suggest common pathways leading to neuron death that eventually result in a disease. The lab is working toward understanding the general principles of protein misfolding in neurodegenerative diseases through computational and experimental approaches.
To sense and control protein conformations, the lab is working toward development of genetically-encoded proteins that bind and report rare/intermediate conformations of target molecules or alter their state using drugs or light.
One of the critical components of the lab's integrative research is drug discovery, focusing on both biological therapeutics and small molecule screening. The lab developed a fully flexible docking algorithm, MedusaDock, that allows for virtual screening of compounds and is is an important asset for small molecule drug discovery efforts.
The lab has developed novel approaches to molecular dynamics simulations and modeling, allowing studies of biological molecules at time scales relevant to biological systems. These approaches synergistically integrate rapid dynamics simulations, molecular modeling and design, and biochemical and cellular biology experiments, allowing for significant strides in understanding the etiology of misfolding diseases.
- Molecular Dynamics Simulation
- Superoxide Dismutase-1
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
- Protein Folding
- Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator
- Ryanodine Receptor Calcium Release Channel