Hwang and former student have paper published in Journal of American Chemical Society

Dr. Wonmuk Hwang, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University, and his former graduate student Krishnakumar M. Ravikumar, recently had their paper, “Role of Hydration Force in the Self-Assembly of Collagens and Amyloid Steric Zipper Filaments,” published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

The paper was also discussed on Water in Biology, a blog forum for discussing the behavior of water in the living cell.

Photo of Dr. Wonmuk Hwang“Water has been one of the most intensively studied biomolecules,” Hwang said. “Yet many aspects of water as the solvent of life remain poorly understood.”

Hwang and Ravikumar, who is now a postdoc at Case Western Reserve University, used computer simulation to elucidate the atomistic mechanisms for the hydrophilic and hydrophobic interactions in two types of biofilaments with clinical importance, collagens and amyloid fibrils.

Contrary to the conventional belief that hydrophilic and hydrophobic interactions have different origins, Hwang found that between the nanometer-scale protein surfaces, the two almost opposing interactions have a common origin that is caused by the ubiquitous hydration shells formed around the proteins.

This result provides a unifying picture for the diverse aspects of water-mediated interactions, and the computational method that Hwang developed can be used for studying the role of water in a wide range of systems such as biomolecular self-assembly and bio-nano interfaces.

Hwang joined the department in the fall of 2004 and his research interests are in the macromolecular dynamics of the cellular machinery such as mechanics of biofilaments and molecular motors. An expert in computational biophysics, the goal of his work is to understand sub-cellular mechanical phenomena that will provide foundations for a wide range of bioengineering applications.

JACS was founded in 1879 and is the flagship journal of the American Chemical Society and the preeminent journal in the field. It is devoted to the publication of fundamental research papers in all areas of chemistry and publishes approximately 16,000 pages of articles, communications, book reviews and computer software reviews a year.