Peter Hegemann part of project team awarded 2020 ERC Synergy Grant

Nov 5, 2020 | ERC Press release

Source: European Research Council, Link to Press Release on youtube

A new generation of optogenetic tools for research and medicine

Project team with participation of Humboldt University receives ERC Synergy Grant, The European Research Council (ERC) is providing 10 million euros in funding for an interdisciplinary, collaborative project to structurally and biophysically analyze selected photo-receptors and develop them into “OptoGPCRs”, light-controlled molecular switches with a wide range of applications in biology and medicine. The ERC Synergy Grant team consists of corresponding PI Gebhard Schertler head of the Division of Biology and Chemistry at Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI, Switzerland), and his colleagues Peter Hegemann (Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany), Sonja Kleinlogel (University of Bern, Switzerland) and Rob Lucas (University of Manchester, UK). Together they will demonstrate how OptoGPCRs can revolutionize our ability to control a wide variety of complex cellular processes with light.

“I congratulate the researchers and especially Mr. Hegemann very warmly on this great success. Synergy Grants are awarded for projects that substantially expand the frontiers of existing knowledge. This applies to Hegemann’s research without a doubt. The development of light-controlled G-protein coupled receptors can revolutionize our understanding of the interaction of complex cellular processes,” says Prof. Peter A. Frensch, Vice President for Research at Humboldt University of Berlin.

The project funded by the ERC Synergy Grant “Switchable rhodOpsins in Life Sciences” – SOL is based on so-called bistable rhodopsins. Rhodopsins belong to the class of so-called G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). There are hundreds of different GPCRs activating a variety of different G proteins and they play an important role in cell signaling in almost any cell type. Not surprisingly, they are the targets of a large variety of pharmaceuticals. Rhodopsins are light activated GPCRs, best known for their role as light receptors in the retina of the human eye. The vision receptors in our eyes lose their light-sensor, the vitamin A derivate retinal, upon activation and must be “re-assembled” in order to accept photons (light) again. Bistable rhodopsins however, keep their retinal and can in principle be activated and de-activated by multiple flashes of light without requiring any assembly, acting as true biological “switches”.

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Source: News from 05.11.20 posted by Abteilung Kommunikation, Marketing und Veranstaltungsmanagement

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