Freie Universität Berlin is the host university for one of eleven new Collaborative Research Centres (CRCs) being funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). The new CRC "Protonation Dynamics in Protein Function" is initially being funded for a period of four years, as announced by the DFG in Bonn. The project, involving biologists, chemists, and physicists, follows through on earlier work on fundamental principles of protein mechanisms and seeks to decode a new functional principle. It is thought that over the long term the work can provide the basis for the technological implementation of novel concepts in the energy sciences, such as light-driven water splitting or oxygen reduction. The spokesperson for the project is the physics professor Holger Dau from Freie Universität Berlin. The other participating institutions are Technische Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and the Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP). The funding period for the CRC will begin on January 1, 2013.
The researchers define protonation dynamics as the movement of hydrogen ions, which allows, for example, the coordination of different functional locations in complex proteins, and which is the foundation of the conversion of light signals in plants and cyanobacteria. The precise way in which local displacement of protons proceeds in hydrogen bridge networks as well as proton transfer over greater distances will be examined using four selected protein systems.
Collaborative Research Centres that are funded by the DFG facilitate innovative, scientifically ambitious, complex, and long-term research by concentrating and coordinating the resources available at a university. The CRC program aims to contribute toward defining the profiles of participating universities. Gender equality and early career support are additional goals of a DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre.