Robert J Keenan
Research Summary / Selected Publications
Our research interfaces biology and chemistry to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie fundamental biological processes. Current research topics include:
1. Membrane protein biogenesis. How do newly synthesized membrane (and secretory) proteins reach the membrane? Once there, how are they inserted into (or translocated across) the membrane? A major focus in the lab is the study of co- and post-translational targeting and insertion pathways using a combination of structural, biochemical and genetic approaches. Our long-term goal is to decipher common structural and mechanistic themes in membrane protein biogenesis.
2. Protein evolution. How do proteins evolve new functions? Directed evolution is a powerful strategy for engineering proteins with new and optimized activities, and it offers a unique approach to study the molecular mechanisms that underlie the evolutionary process. We study molecular evolution in fluorescent proteins (FPs) using a combination of directed evolution, structural and biochemical analysis, and we use this information to engineer FPs for a variety of biomedical imaging applications. We also study protein evolution in members of the N-acetyltransferase superfamily,...
Mariappan, M.*, Mateja, A.*, Dobosz, M., Bove, E., Hegde, R.S. and Keenan, R.J. (2011) The mechanism of membrane-associated steps in tail-anchored protein insertion. Nature, 477:61-65; advance online publication, (doi:10.1038/nature10362).
Mateja, A., Szlachcic, A., Downing, M.E., Dobosz, M., Mariappan, M., Hegde, R.S. and Keenan, R.J. (2009) The structural basis of tail-anchored membrane protein recognition by Get3. Nature, 461:361-366; advance online publication, (doi:10.1038/nature08319).