Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Genomics & Computational Biology

First Advisor

Jeffrey G. Saven

Second Advisor

Amos B. Smith


Drug discovery of small-molecule protein inhibitors is a vast enterprise that involves several scientific disciplines (i.e. genomics, cell biology, x-ray crystallography, chemistry, computer science, statistics), with each discipline focusing on a particular aspect of the process. In this thesis, I use computational and experimental approaches to explore the most fundamental aspect of drug discovery: the molecular interactions of small-molecules inhibitors with proteins.

In Part I (Chapters I and II), I describe how computational docking approaches can be used to identify structurally diverse molecules that can inhibit multiple protein targets in the brain. I illustrate this approach using the examples of microtubule-stabilizing agents and inhibitors of cyclooxygenase(COX)-I and 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX).

In Part II (Chapters III and IV), I focus on membrane proteins, which are notoriously difficult to work with due to their low natural abundances, low yields for heterologous over expression, and propensities toward aggregation. I describe a general approach for designing water-soluble variants of membrane proteins, for the purpose of developing cell-free, label-free, detergent-free, solution-phase studies of protein structure and small-molecule binding. I illustrate this approach through the design of a water-soluble variant of the membrane protein Smoothened, wsSMO. This wsSMO stands to serve as a first-step towards developing membrane protein analogs of this important signaling protein and drug target.

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