1. Short description of the project

The aim of the project is to build a dynamic team of researchers involved in studies in the area of molecular biophysics, plant biophysics, plasmonics and biomedical sciences and applying in their work different, complementary spectroscopic techniques. The project is realized as based on the expertise, experience, scientific equipment and facilities of the Department of Biophysics, Institute of Physics, Maria Curie-Sklodowska University (Lublin, Poland) in association with some prominent laboratories from abroad. Such an international collaboration expands the area of expertise and provides access to the unique in the world molecular spectroscopy techniques. In addition, four groups from Poland, linked to our laboratory by a long-standing, friendly and fruitful cooperation, are involved in the project. The Department of Biophysics is in the Faculty of Mathematics, Physcis and Computer Sciences, which has been classified, by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, to the highest category, in the ranking of the scientific institutions in Poland.

The project “Molecular Spectroscopy for BioMedical Studies” is planned as constituted of three complementary core projects:

  1. Studies on regulation of photosynthetic antenna function in plants at the molecular level.
  2. Studies on biomembranes: Incorporation of small molecules and proteins, important from the medical standpoint, into lipid membranes. Molecular organization of biomembranes.
  3. Examination of interaction of biomolecules with nanoparticles and plasmonic platforms: Towards enhancement of sensitivity of molecular spectroscopy techniques.

2. The team

Realization of the project is based on a teamwork of the following group members:

  • principal investigator (PI)
  • scientists which have considerable experience in advanced research based on molecular spectroscopy techniques (2 person)
  • young post-doctoral fellows (3 person)
  • graduate students (6 person)
  • undergraduate students (12 person).
Fig. 1. Structure of the research team of the project “Molecular Spectroscopy for BioMedical Studies”.

The team that has been assembled encompasses three major investigators with complementary skills and expertise to the project. The team leader and principal investigator (PI) Prof. Wiesław I. Gruszecki is responsible for coordination of three complementary core projects as well as conceptual and experimental development within each core project. His obligation involves the entire project progress. Prof. Gruszecki will coordinate the efforts of two major co-investigators, Dr. Wojciech Grudziński and Dr. Rafał Luchowski. Drs. Grudziński and Luchowski have long history of collaboration with PI on previous projects. They provide the expertise in several molecular spectroscopy and microscopy techniques, acquired in home institution and in abroad scientific centers. They serve also as tutors for students and postgraduate students.

Essential for realization of the project is activity of postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduate students. Postdoctoral researchers and graduate students are recruited on the basis of internationally-open calls. Undergraduate researchers will be recruited mainly from the group of M.Sc. students of the Institute of Physics, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin but also students from other universities are cordially invited.

 

 

3. The project

Spectroscopic techniques

The project “Molecular Spectroscopy for BioMedical Studies” is realized as based on the expertise of the senior team members in different, complementary spectroscopic techniques. As a team we have experience in application of several molecular spectroscopy techniques in biological and biomedical studies, e.g. electronic absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy, FTIR, EPR, NMR, Raman spectroscopy, Photoacoustic spectroscopy, Linear and Circular Dichroism spectroscopy and time-resolved fluorescence, including FLIM (Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Microscopy). We plan to apply most of these techniques in order to realize the present project. Moreover, owing to the participation of our foreign partners in the program we will have possibility to apply several novel and sophisticated spectroscopic techniques in our studies planned within the project, e.g. the magnetic circular dichroism, the differential polarization laser scanning microscopy and thermoluminescence in the Biological Research Center in Szeged (Hungary) with Prof. Gyozo Garab, excited state absorption spectroscopy on femtosecond timescale in the Institute of Physical Biology in Nove Hrady (Czech Republik) with Prof. Tomas Polivka, triplet minus singlet spectroscopy and band-broadening analysis in the Institute of Biophysics, CNR, Milan (Italy) with Dr. Giuseppe Zucchelli, Dr. Robert Jennings and Dr. Stefano Santabarbara and NLPF (Nonlinear polarization spectroscopy in the frequency domain) in the Potsdam University (Germany) with Dr. Heiko Lokstein.

The project constitution

The project “Molecular Spectroscopy for BioMedical Studies” is constituted of three core projects designed as continuation and extension of the research programs realized in our group:

  1. Studies on regulation of photosynthetic antenna function in plants at the molecular level (referred to as Photosynthesis).
  2. Studies on biomembranes: Incorporation of small molecules and proteins, important from the medical standpoint, into lipid membranes. Molecular organization of biomembranes (referred to as Biomembranes).
  3. Examination of interaction of biomolecules with nanoparticles and plasmonic platforms: Towards enhancement of sensitivity of molecular spectroscopy techniques (referred to as Nanoplasmonics).
Fig. 2. Structure of the project “Molecular Spectroscopy for BioMedical Studies”, constituted of three core projects: Photosynthesis, Biomembranes and Nanoplasmonics

A novelty of the present approach, expressed in a constitution of the project “Molecular Spectroscopy for BioMedical Studies”, is based on the fact that realization of three, formally different, core projects by a team of closely collaborating researchers provides unique chance of a synergistic enhancement of progress within each research area. For example, elaboration of proper plasmonic platforms (the core project Nanoplasmonics) can provide conditions for analysis of molecular organization of the polyene antibiotic amphotericin B (AmB) within lipid membranes (the core project Biomembranes). Such an analysis is theoretically possible with application of fluorescence spectroscopy and/or fluorescence lifetime measurements but relatively low fluorescence quantum yield of AmB makes applicability of such an approach limited. In our opinion, extraordinary profit can be expected in the research area of overlap of the core projects Nanoplasmonics and Photosynthesis. Our preliminary experiments, carried out in collaboration with the partners from the Faculty of Biology Warsaw University, Prof. Agnieszka Mostowska and Prof. Maciej Garstka show that the major light-harvesting pigment-protein complex isolated from the photosynthetic apparatus of plants (LHCII) forms complexes with metallic nanoparticles and can be applied to construct, relatively efficient and stable, photovoltaic devices. The area of overlap between the core projects Photosynthesis and Biomembranes can be represented by a research on the molecular organization of lipid membranes containing carotenoids in their composition. This topic is important from a human health standpoint and highly timely, despite many years of intense research in many centers around the world. This is also area of our long-term collaboration with Prof. Kazimierz Strzałka and other partners from the Faculty of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Biotechnology, Jagiellonian University in Kraków.