Proteins - Shape and Function

Proteins are complex molecules that can adopt specific shapes that allow them to interact with other molecules in very specific ways. The shape of a molecule can greatly affect its behavior. One protein you may be familiar with is hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the substance found in blood that carries oxygen. The molecular structure of hemoglobin includes four pockets that can hold and carry oxygen.

This representation of Hemoglobin illustrates the complex structure of proteins. The gray sections represent the active sites that are responsible for binding to and carrying the oxygen.

Hold the arrow from your mouse over the structure of hemoglobin and hold down the left mouse button. This will allow you to move and manipulate the structure.

Professor Gellman and his group of graduate and undergraduate students are working on designing beta peptides (small proteins) with specific shapes. The formation of proteins with certain shapes may result in a new class of drugs that could be used to cure diseases.