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The Flu and the Mystery of Proton Transport

NSF Award:

Fundamental Studies of Solvation and Transport Phenomena in Liquids  (University of Utah)

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In 2007 TeraGrid resources were used to study the uniqueness of the influenza A M2 channel and its effect on proton transport in the virus. The M2 channel is a trans-membrane, four-helix channel believed to play a key role in the viral life-cycle by allowing protons to flow through it. This transport of protons facilitates viral replication in a host cell. In terms of basic research, the M2 channel is of considerable relevance to drug design and virology to target the replication mechanisms of the flu virus.

The calculation of proton transport pathways requires a novel computational methodology, combined with extensive simulation over many fast processors to achieve meaningful statistical convergence. This makes proton transport one of the most challenging molecular processes to study. Using TeraGrid resources, Gregory Voth at the University of Utah discovered how the M2 channel operates as a proton conductor in response to the acidic conditions on either side of the cell membrane. His research also explains how the anti-flu drug amantadine, blocks the channel and causes it to shut down.

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