Workshop IV: Molecular Machines

May 24 - 28, 2004


The life of a cell crucially depends on active proteins that are able to carry out highly specialized tasks such as the transcription and duplication of the DNA genome, the separation of duplicated chromosomes, the transport of atoms and molecules in and out of the cell, and the transport of whole vesicles across the cell. The proteins responsible for these tasks can be viewed as nanometer-sized molecular machines that transform the chemical energy produced by a hydrolysis reaction into various forms of work. Outside cells, molecular machines also are active: the collective action of large numbers of individual “motor proteins” is responsible for muscle contraction.

Over the last decade, progress in single-molecule manipulation techniques has led to quantitative measurements of the physical properties of these molecular machines at the single-molecule level. The pico-newton level forces generated by molecular machines can be measured by micromechanical methods, such as the optical trap, while a range of optical techniques, such as FRET, provide us with quantitative information at the nanometer level on the dynamical structure of molecular machines. There has also been considerable progress on the theoretical side. Model studies of molecular machines using stochastic differential equations and numerical modeling revealed that, because of the important role of thermal fluctuations, the physics of molecular machines differs in fundamental ways from that of the macroscopic machines and, unlike macroscopic machines, molecular machines cannot be described by a direct application of classical thermodynamics, including the concept of Carnot efficiency.

The aim of the workshop is to bring together theoretical physicists and mathematical biologists working in this area as well as leading experimentalists. The focus will be in particular on a discussion of topics that have come to the foreground since the 1999 Meeting on Single Molecule Biophysics in Tours (France):

  • Stochastic Models and Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics of Motor Proteins
  • DNA Enzymes (RNA Polymerase, Helicases, Topoisomerases)
  • Stepped versus Continuous Motors
  • Hearing and Motor Proteins
  • Motor Proteins and Actin Dynamics
  • Motor Protein Efficiency
  • Hand-over-hand versus Inchworm models of Myosin.

Organizing Committee

Mrs. Bruinsma, Chair (UCLA, Physics)
Carlo Montemagno (UCLA, Biomedical Engineering)
Jacques Prost (Institut Curie, France, Chemistry)
Hong Qian (University of Washington, Applied Mathematics)
Shimon Weiss (UCLA, Chemistry&Biochemistry)