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David Thomas

Graduate Faculty (Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Biophysics)

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Thomas, David.jpeg

Established Investigator of the American Heart Association (1982-87); NIH MERIT Award (1993-2003); Head, Division of Structural Biology and Biophysics, 2000-2006; All-University Teaching Award, 2000; William F. Dietrich Chair in Structural Biology, 2004-; Fellow of the Biophysical Society, 2005-. 1983 Editorial Board, Biophysical Journal; 1984 86 Chair, Contractility Subgroup, Biophysical Society; 1984 92, American Heart Association Research Committee; 1984-present NIH Study Sections and site visits; 1985- Director, Biophysical Spectroscopy Facility; 1985 98 Associate Editor, Biophysical Journal; 1989 94 Organizer, FASEB Conference on Cell Membranes; 1989 93 Council, Biophysical Society; 1992 94 NSF Advisory Panel, Biophysics Program; 1996-7 NSF Biological Instrumentation Panel; 1997 Organizer, US/Japan Symposium on Actin, Maui; 2003 Organizer, Biophysical Society Symposium on Muscle Molecular Dynamics; 2004- Biophysical Society Fellow; 2001- Director, NIH Muscle Training Grant; 2005- Director, NSF Undergraduate Training Grant; 2001- Director, Structural Biology NMR Facility, 2008-2011 Chair, Gordon Conference on Muscle; 2000- Medical School Research Council; Center on Aging, Associate Director; Undergraduate Internship Committee; Minnesota Supercomputer Institute, Chair Fellows Committee; Minnesota Supercomputer Institute, Chair; Basic Sciences Computing Laboratory Executive Committee, Minnesota Supercomputer Institute; NIH Muscle Research Training Grant Director;
Academy of Medical Educators.

Summary of Interests
Spectroscopic probes of protein structural dynamics, with emphasis on muscle. New spectroscopic techniques: saturation transfer electron paramagnetic resonance, diffusion-enhanced luminescence energy transfer, synthetic methods in spectroscopic labeling. [Research Web Page]

About My Work

Dr. Thomas’s strength has been his innovative development of a powerful suite of advanced spectroscopies, combined with the creative application of these techniques to some of the most complex and important problems in molecular biophysics. While most other biophysicists have confined themselves to measurements of static structure on purified proteins, Thomas has developed techniques, such as saturation-transfer electron paramagnetic resonance and diffusion-enhanced fluorescence resonance energy transfer, that can be applied in real time to functioning muscle fibers and membranes, and that can measure molecular motions and interactions directly during biochemical function. Using these approaches, he was the first to detect the rotational dynamics of myosin during muscle contraction, to detect the protein-protein interactions that regulate cardiac calcium transport, and to define the crucial role of order-disorder transitions in both systems. His discoveries have profoundly affected not only the muscle field, but the entire fields of biomolecular dynamics and spectroscopy.

Selected Publications

Surek, J. T. and D. D. Thomas, A paramagnetic molecular voltmeter., J Magn Reson, 190 (2007) 134–152

Nesmelov, Y. E., C. B. Karim, L. Song, P. G. Fajer, and D. D. Thomas., Rotational dynamics of phospholamban determined by multifrequency electron paramagnetic resonance., Biophys J, (2007) 93: 2805-2812. [abstract]

Espinoza-Fonseca, L. M., D. Kast, and D. D. Thomas, Molecular dynamics simulations reveal a disorder-to-order transition upon phosphorylation of smooth muscle myosin, Biophys J, (2007) 93: 2083-2090. PMID: 17545237.

Karim, C. B., Zhang, Z., and D.D. Thomas., Synthesis of TOAC-spin-labeled proteins and reconstitution in lipid membranes., Nature Protocols, (2007) 2: 43-49. [abstract]

Karim, C. B., T. L. Kirby, Z. Zhang, Y. Nesmelov, and D. D. Thomas., Phospholamban structural dynamics in lipid bilayers probed by a spin label rigidly coupled to the peptide backbone., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, (2004) 101: 14437-14442. [abstract]

Robia, S. L., K. S. Campbell, E. M. Kelly, Z. Hou, D. L. Winters, and D. D. Thomas., Förster transfer recovery reveals that phospholamban exchanges slowly from pentamers, but rapidly from the SERCA regulatory complex., Circ. Res., 101: 1123-9 (cover article), 2007.


B. S. (Physics), Stanford University, 1971
Ph.D. (Biophysics), Stanford University, 1975
Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University, 1976
Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University, 1977