Dr. Monika Sommerhalter from the Max Planck Institute for Radiation Chemistry in Mühlheim/Ruhr is awarded the Schering Prize 2000 for her research on “De novo synthetized proteins with metal-porphyrin cofactors”.
During her Ph.D. thesis Monika Sommerhalter worked on model systems of natural proteins. Proteins carry out many essential functions, including the chemical transformation of metabolic products and the transport of electrons or molecules like oxygen. Several aspects of the structure and function of natural proteins are still unknown. The construction of artificial protein models can lead to a better understanding and offers interesting technical applications in catalysis, bioelectronics, and medicine.
Model systems that are capable of electron transfer play the central role in the thesis of Monika Sommerhalter. From amino acids, the building blocks of all natural proteins, a four-helix-bundle scaffold was generated. Other molecules, so called metalloporphyrins, were incorporated into these scaffolds. In nature metalloporphyrins often provide the functional centre for catalysis or the transport of oxygen or electrons. Their properties are influenced by the interaction with the amino acids of the protein scaffold and optimised with respect to their function. By using electron spin resonance spectroscopy Monika Sommerhalter was able to describe the binding situation of the metalloporphyrins in detail.
Monika Sommerhalter’s thesis on “de novo synthesized proteins with metalloporphyrin cofactors” was written in the group of Prof. Dr. W. Lubitz at the Max Volmer Laboratory of the Technical University Berlin in cooperation with Prof. Dr. W. Haehnel, University of Freiburg. The project was supported by the Volkswagen Foundation’s program “Intra- and Intermolecular Electron transfer.” Monika Sommerhalter is currently working at the Max Planck Institute for Radiation Chemistry, Mülheim/Ruhr, on the synthesis and improvement of catalytic active protein models.
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