Scientists are trying to discover the exact sequence of events that occurs when light strikes photoactive proteins, changing their atomic structure, or “shape.” That biochemical process unfolds in processes like photosynthesis.
Until now, only the first and last states of a molecule before and after certain ultrafast chemical reactions could be determined. Scientists want to know how the absorbed energy affects the protein’s shape in the course of the reaction. Only then can they discover how the protein accomplishes its job.
A team of researchers, led by Abbas Ourmazd, UWM distinguished professor of physics, and Robin Santra from the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), has created a distinctive machine-learning approach to track the way in which the photoactive yellow protein (PYP) undergoes changes in its structure in a fraction of a second after being excited by light.