※ SCIENCE AND ART ※ Beautiful copper sculptures of proteins!

※ SCIENCE AND ART ※ Beautiful copper sculptures of proteins!

Originally shared by Rich Pollett

KcsA Potassium Channel Mike Tyka science and art Copper Steel

#ScienceSunday curated by Allison Sekuler and Robby Bowles

Potassium channels form potassium-selective pores that span cell membranes. They are the most widely distributed type of ion channel found in virtually all living organisms. The four identical subunits are situated in a four-fold symmetrical manner around a central pore, which allows potassium ions to pass freely. At the top of the structure, formed by four loops lining the pore, a selectivity filter is situated which prevents other ions such as — sodium ions — from passing. The correct ions are detected by their size and charge. Note that that no active pumping of ions occurs; it merely allows passive conductance of ions down the con-centration gradient between the two sides of the membrane.

The KcsA is an archetypal membrane protein with eight tightly packed membrane-spanning a-helices. The four short helices in the center where the chain crosses half the membrane and then returns to the top are a more unusual feature.

Beautiful Proteins:


Fresh Photons:


Mike Tyka is a senior research fellow at the University of Washington and works on protein folding & prediction. He’s the co-founder of ALTS Makerspace in Seattle and co-founder of GrooveLabs who designed and built a 40ft playable Rubiks cube at Burning Man in 2009. In his spare time he enjoys working with metal sculpture and exploring the hidden beauty in world. — Images Mike Tyka.


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13 Responses to ※ SCIENCE AND ART ※ Beautiful copper sculptures of proteins!

  1. I need a +1000 button!

    I just wanted to do this in povray, only to see that rasmol’s povray export can only do balls and sticks, no ribbons 😦

  2. Rajini Rao says:

    Ralf Muschall , I’m afraid I must plead ignorance to povray (I tell the folks in my lab what I’m looking for and they generate the protein views). I mentioned in Rich’s stream that one can send the pdb coordinates to companies that will etch protein structures into plexiglass blocks that can be lit from underneath. Makes a nice gift (I have several).

  3. Rajini Rao Povray is a raytracer to make pictures from a 3d description. It is special in having lots of special geometric primitives (e.g. algebraic surfaces) which saves rendering time compared to systems which represent everything as a mesh of triangles. Rasmol has an export function for povray scene description files, but it does not export ribbons.

  4. Rajini Rao says:

    Yes, a rendering program not a molecular modeller. I’ve seen it used to pretty things up..shadows, gloss, what have you. Now you’ve made me curious, I’ll check with Brandie Cross and others in my group to see how they handle ribbons for rendering.

  5. Dr. Cross says:

    I use Pymol for rendering and presentation. ;0)

  6. Dr. Cross says:

    WOW! I just realized these are actual SCULPTURES! Gorgeous! =0) I want one of our model of SPCA2!

  7. Rajini Rao says:

    Thanks, Brandie Cross ! Your molecular representations always look gorgeous. Would be great to see a copper sculpture of the calcium ATPase, right? 😉

  8. Rajini Rao says:

    Haha, great minds think alike, Brandie Cross 🙂

  9. Brandie Cross Thanks. I downloaded the thing, compilations stops with “error: ‘CGO’ has no member named ‘color’” on two different machines. I’ll go to sleep now and try tomorrow (the problem seems to be that CGO->color is conditional inside an #ifdef in CGO.h, but its usage in CGO.c is not).

    PS: What I wanted to render was GFP (1EMA.pdb), but my goal is to be able to do it more than just having the pictures.

  10. Cheng Tan says:


    The K+ Channel is definitely an ideal model for sculptors, LOL.

  11. Rajini Rao says:

    Cheng Tan , thanks! “Commissioned and Owned by Rod McKinnon”, LOL!

  12. Rajini Rao says:

    Great question, does anyone know the answer?

  13. Rajini Rao says:

    F.A.T. makes F.U.C.T? Far Out. 🙂

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