Protein Portraits

         The aesthetic alchemy of life

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Choosing a subject for a protein portrait

This week we will put on our artist caps and earnestly search the protein data bank for subjects to portray.  There are well over 100,000 structures on deposit in the PDB.  How to choose just one?

Our interests in the science of proteins will strongly guide our choice of subject.  Most of us have encountered topics in the life sciences that have piqued our curiosity and that we have told ourselves we will study further someday.  Perhaps that day is here.  You have seven weeks ahead of you to put together a protein portrait for public display.  So if you are still curious about that nervous system twitch or that flower pollen antigen you heard about in Biology 211, that may be all the incentive you need to plunge into a deeper examination of the proteins associated with those fondly remembered topics.

calder spiralsThe search for a protein subject is also closely intertwined with our preferences for artistic media.  Ask yourself in which artistic medium you are talented.  And if the word “talent” is an overstatement, then ask yourself which medium you would like to play around in for the next several weeks.  If you are a painter, say, you may look for a certain sort of protein subject, such as one that looks good in the gaudy colors of Calder’s Spiral Flowers.

Or if you have talent as a sculptor you may look for a different sort of subject, one whose molecular articulations are well presented by wiring and bended metals, like Calder’s Vertical Constellation.  calder wire

Or if you skipped art class in high school you may at least have stashed in the back of your closet a set of Leggo building blocks or an embroidery kit someone gave you for your birthday one year — Put that stuff to use by turning it into a protein portrait for 2016!

But an equally important source of inspiration is the simple tug we may feel when we encounter a protein while thumbing through the PDB.  Check out this recently deposited structure, portrayed below by standard PDB thumbnail graphics. Without even knowing the name of the structure or its biological function, are you not intrigued by its pinwheel shape?  Does the appearance of the molecule take you in an artistic direction?  If so, go with the wind!

ImageSource=RCSB PDB; StructureID=5fvc; DOI=;

Click on the structure to go to its PDB page

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