NMR Structural Studies of Mercury Transport Proteins

EPA Grant Number: R823576
Title: NMR Structural Studies of Mercury Transport Proteins
Investigators: Opella, Stanley J.
Institution: University of Pennsylvania
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: October 1, 1995 through September 1, 1998
Project Amount: $404,667
RFA: Exploratory Research - Environmental Biology (1995) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Biology/Life Sciences , Health , Ecosystems


Structural biology is being applied to protein components of a biological heavy metal detoxification system. These studies may lead to protein based ex vivo methods for bioremediation of heavy metal toxins in the environment. The structures of two key proteins from the bacterial mercury detoxification system are being determined by NMR spectroscopy. Although mercury containing compounds are highly toxic, bacteria containing the genes for these proteins survive in high levels of pollution because of their roles in scavenging and transporting mercury into cells. By determining their structures it may be possible to optimize their activities for a variety of heavy metals and to stabilize them so that they can be immobilized as parts of devices for extracting these metals from the environment. The structure of merP (periplasm) with and without bound mercury has recently been determined. This is a soluble globular protein that binds mercury on the outside of the cell. Good progress is being made in determining the structure of merT (transport), the membrane protein that accepts mercury from merP and transports it into the cell where it is converted to non-toxic and volatile metallic mercury. After determining the structures of merP and merT, they will be studied as a functional pair to gain insight into the molecular mechanism of mercury recognition and concentration.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 2 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Environmental Chemistry, Biochemistry, Bioremediation, Biology, Mercury, volatile metallic mercury , fate and transport, bacteria control, biodegradation, chemical transport, contaminant release, mercury transport proteins, volatile metallic mercury, NMR spectroscopy , mercury concentration, bacterial degradation, heavy metals

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1996
  • 1997
  • Final Report