Dynamics Imaging of Biomolecular Assemblies


Single cells are the building blocks for all biological systems; yet they are inherently complex with intricate networks of dynamic biomolecular assemblies made up of proteins, coenzymes, ligands, DNA, RNA and lipids. In addition, these molecular assemblies are dynamically changing their sizes, conformations and intermolecular interactions in response to specific chemical, environmental or biological cues. In Heikal laboratory, we are using fluorescence microscopy (confocal, two-photon, TIRF, and wide-field) and spectroscopy (time-resolved fluorescence, time-resolved anisotropy, FLIM, and FCS) to investigate molecular and cellular biophysics. These noninvasive and quantitative approaches complement traditional biochemical techniques on purified biomolecules from cell lysates.

Our interdisciplinary research interests are focused on understanding the molecular underpinning of cellular processes such as energy metabolism in living cells, mitochondrial dysfunction, biomimetic membranes, and immunoglobulin E receptor signaling. We are also interested in studying protein dynamics, protein-protein interactions, and macromolecular crowding in controlled environments. In addition, we are developing fluorescence-based micro-spectroscopic tools, image processing algorithm and modeling.

Students in Heikal laboratory (both undergraduates and graduates) are trained on a number of analytical, biophysical, and biochemical methods that include cell culture, model membrane assemblies, molecular dynamics, optical microscopy and ultrafast laser spectroscopy. Different aspects of scientific research (e.g., experimental design, data and image analysis, critical thinking, writing, communication and teamwork skills) are also emphasized. The students in Heikal laboratory also gain an appreciation of interdisciplinary research at the interface of traditional disciplines.




Professor Martin Gruebele, James R. Eiszner Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Biophysics and Computational Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will be visiting UMD for an invited seminar entitled,Protein Stability and Folding Kinetics in Living Cell”. The seminar will take place on May 1, 2014, at 3:00 PM (130 SMed). Refreshments will be served. Please join us.

Ahmed Heikal will participate in a session on "Spectroscopy in Kinetics and Dynamics" in the upcoming "69th International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy", June 16 - 20, 2014, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champain. He will also chair a Mini-symposium on "Spectroscopy in Kinetics and Dynamics."

Ahmed Heikal will be an invited speaker at the upcoming Ultrafast Imaging and Spectroscopy conference in the 2014 SPIE Optics and Photonics, which will be held in San Diego during August 17 - 21, 2014.

Randi Timerman (undergraduate) and John Alfveby (MS candidate) from Heikal Group have presented their research (two posters) at the 58th Biophysical Society Meeting, San Francisco, CA (February 15 - 19, 2014). Chang Thao, Holly Israelson, Jillian Bartusek, Dhanushka Wickramasinghe, and Robb Welty were also co-authors.

Ahmed Heikal was an invited speaker at the 11th Annual Advanced Imaging Techniques Workshop, University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, January 29 - 31, 2014. His talk was entitled, "Bioenergetics and Diffusion in the Crowded Milieu of Living Cells". The workshop was sponsored by Molecular Imaging Center / Cancer Research Laboratory at UC Berkeley, Becker & Hickl GmbH (Berlin, Germany), and Boston Electronics.

Ahmed Heikal served as a reviewer for a research proposal that was submitted to Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC, UK); December 2013.

Ahmed Heikal served as an external examiner of a PhD thesis at The Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME), University of Toronto, Canada, on July 25th, 2013.

Robb Welty has defended his MS thesis successfully on July 23rd, 2013. Robb has been admitted to the Computational and Molecular Biophysics PhD Program at Washington University in St. Louis. Congratulations Robb and best wishes.

Ahmed Heikal has just published a peer-reviewed paper (in press) entitled, "Time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy and fluctuation correlation analysis of major histocompatibility complex class I proteins in fibroblast cells", in Methods (DOI 10.1016/j.ymeth.2013.06.023). This paper will be published in a special issue of Methods, entitled "Advanced Light Microscopy Imaging in Biological Sciences."

Ahmed Heikal served on NIH Scientific Reviews, Enabling Bioanalytical and Imaging Technologies (EBIT) Study Sections in Washington, D.C. (February 07-08, 2013 and December 17-18, 2013) and San Antonio, TX (October 10-11, 2012).

Monica P Sotovelasquez, a former undergraduate student in Heikal laboratory, is now a PhD student at the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Purdue University. Congratulations Monica and best wishes.

Dhanushka Wickramasinghe has defended her MS thesis successfully on December 20th, 2011. Dhanushka is planning to apply for graduate school towards a PhD in Chemistry. Congratulations Dhanushka and best wishes.