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Science Is Art Is Science: A crystal-clear view of a proton pump

proton pumpA proton pump called vacuolar ATPase plays an essential role in several biological processes. Malfunctions in this pump lead to a wide spectrum of human diseases, including bone and kidney diseases, diabetes and cancer.

Biochemistry and molecular biology scientists in the laboratory of Stephan Wilkens, PhD, use X-ray crystallography to study the 3-D structure of the pump to understand its role in disease and to aid in the design of therapeutics.

These colorful images illustrate how sectors of the proton pump – the sectors responsible for using cellular energy to drive transport through the pump – pack together to form the crystals that the researchers study. This work involves postdoctoral researcher Rebecca Oot, PhD, and Wilkens in collaboration with Patricia Kane, PhD, and Edward Berry, PhD, from Upstate‘s department of biochemistry and molecular biology.

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

Stephan Wilkens, PhD


Rebecca Oot, PhD


Patricia Kane, PhD


Edward Berry, PhD