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I'm using classically physical techniques, namely atomic force microscopy and molecular dynamics simulations, to elucidate conformational dynamics of transmembrane proteins involved in T cell activation

Vγ9Vδ2 T cells have long been known to be activated by phosphoantigens, small pyrophosphate-containing metabolites that accumulate intracellularly in certain tumors and microbial infections. More recently, a ubiquitously expressed transmembrane protein, butyrophilin 3A, was found to be necessary for this activation. My work will focus on testing a proposed model from Erin Adams' lab whereby phosphoantigen binds intracellularly to butyrophilin 3A, leading to an extracellular conformational change that is recognized by Vγ9Vδ2 T cell receptors. To test this model, I will utilize both the computational expertise of Benoit Roux's lab and the exceptional atomic force microscopy facilities available at the University of Chicago's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC).