Dipankar Chatterji

Molecular Biophysics Unit
Research Areas: 
Regulation of gene expression in prokaryotes; Structure-function relationship in RNA polymerase from E. coli and Mycobacteria.
Research Highlights: 

Professor Dipankar Chatterji is responsible for starting a major initiative on mycobacterial transcription with special emphasis on stress induced regulation of gene expression during starvation. The work in his laboratory first established stringency in mycobacteria, discovered the mechanism of stringent response in a Gram positive organism and generated a strain of M. smegmatis which is devoid of ppGpp synthesizing enzyme. The proximate aim was to characterize the survival and behavior of such a mutated organism. During this period, they identified a new stress induced protein related to the DPS (DNA binding Proteins from Starved cells) group or proteins, structurally characterized it by X-ray crystallography and proposed its role in DNA compaction in bacterial populations during starvation. Prof. Chatterji's current interest includes the role of omega factor in bacterial transcription. The omega subunit of RNA polymerase has been shown to play a role in folding and assembling RNA polymerase during multi-step assembly processes. However, its function during the catalytic process was not known. Prof. Chatterji's group now has proposed that there is plasticity in the catalytic centre of RNA polymerase and the interface involving omega plays a major role therein. Using assays to follow macromolecular interactions in crowded environments, studies on RNA polymerase assembly as well as promoter-enzyme interaction by Langmuir-Blodgett techniques have been carried out. Recent projects initiated in the lab include: (1) quorum sensing in mycobacteria and its relationship with stress; and (2) utilizing the dodecameric DPS-like protein as a vehicle for nano-delivery of ligands.

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