Nicoya’s Q & A: Researcher Profile – Dr. Guy Guillemette

Dr. Guy Guillemette, University of Waterloo Associate Professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry, has used Nicoya’s OpenSPR to publish “Structural Studies of a Complex Between Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase and Calmodulin at Physiological Calcium Concentration” with M. Piazza and T. Dieckmann. With over 70 publications, we interviewed Dr. Guillemette about his protein-peptide research and experience using OpenSPR.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your research, and how you’re using Nicoya’s OpenSPR.

At the University of Waterloo, as a biochemistry professor, I do research on enzymes that are involved in producing nitric oxide and one of the aspects of that in terms of these enzymes, known as nitric oxygen synthase, is the activation by calmodulin, a calcium-binding protein. For a number of years, we’ve been studying how the calcium-binding to calmodulin somehow turns the enzymes on; studies on activation, based on the fact, whether or not inhibitors are a factor. We are using OpenSPR to give us an understanding of how the peptide or the protein binds to the calmodulin and activates the enzyme.

How did you hear about OpenSPR and what about it appealed to you?

I heard about it from my colleague, Thorsten Dieckmann, who was working on SPR looking at nucleic acids for binding, nucleic acids, and studying the interactions between nucleic acids and specific dyes like malachite green. In my case, we were interested in looking more in terms of the binding of the calmodulin to the peptide or the protein, so we started playing around with his system and then we got more involved and now we’re using it quite extensively to study the interaction in determining on and off rates for the interaction between the protein and calmodulin.

Why do you choose to use OpenSPR instead of other more conventional lab techniques?

OpenSPR provides us with additional biophysical information. It’s more affordable in terms of how to do it. It’s a pretty quick method for doing the experiment, and we can modify the conditions quite easily, so we can optimize the experiment so we can look for on and off rates for the affinity of the ligand to its target under a variety of conditions. Some are more physiological conditions, so you try to get an understanding of how the molecules work. It complements other types of studies like we use NMR and things like Calorimetry to also get information regarding these interactions.

In your opinion, what other scientists would also benefit from OpenSPR?

I think the technology would be useful for people that want to understand interactions between different molecules. That could be anything from proteins with proteins, or proteins or enzymes with inhibitors, to looking at possibility of the binding of drugs. My colleagues are looking at nucleic acid interacting with either other nucleic acids or with proteins or possibly different types of molecules like dyes and other types of things, or even drugs. There’s a possibility of expanding to those types of things, something like you would get with a Biacore; the thing is OpenSPR is more affordable, it’s something most labs can use, and also it can be a very good addition to teaching labs.

Does University of Waterloo use OpenSPR for teaching labs?

We recently got one in the teaching labs. I was just talking to head lab coordinator and she was excited to design some experiments for it, to use in teaching. By using that, they can introduce a lot of theories and concepts into the lab with respect to ligand binding and also the biophysical properties of molecules and also some of the analysis of the data. So in teaching labs, it opens up a whole new area.

With the expertise that’s being built up here at UW in terms of Nicoya itself and collaborations, it’s opening up a lot of possibilities for different types of systems to be able to do studies with this particular apparatus.

You can read more about Dr. Guillemette’s research here:

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