Research interests in our research group

The research interests of the group of Prof. Janne Ihalainen lay at the intersection of biology, chemistry and physics. The general aim is to detect fast molecular time-scale processes in nature, which facilitates understanding of the mechanism of biological reactions. To date, our research focuses on a red photosensor proteins, phytochromes. These proteins are important sensory proteins in plants, algae, fungi and many bacteria. In our studies, we have detected crystal and solution structures from resting and active states of red light photosensor protein (bacteriophytochromes) in a kinetic manner. For this, time-resolved X-ray solution scattering, together with X-ray crystallography, was utilised. Further, we showed that the large scale structural changes are ubiquitous in many bacteriophytochrome systems and by combining spectroscopic experimental observations with the X-ray scattering data, we have characterized the structural changes of the full-length bacteriophytochromes and their monomeric counterparts. Lately, we have been able to characterise the intermediate states of the photo-cycle of the phytochrome proteins. For this, we used step-scan FTIR spectroscopy and molecular dynamics simulations.


Selected publications

Publication 1

Janne A. Ihalainen, Emil Gustavsson, Lea Schroeder, Serena Donnini, Heli Lehtivuori, Linnéa Isaksson, Christian Thöing, Vaibhav Modi, Oskar Berntsson, Brigitte Stucki-Buchli, Alli Liukkonen, Heikki Häkkänen, Elina Kalenius, Sebastian Westenhoff, Tilman Kottke: Chromophore-protein interplay during the phytochrome photocycle revealed by step-scan FTIR spectroscopy. JACS 2018, 140, 12396-12404.

Publication 2

Alexander Björling, Oskar Berntsson, Heli Lehtivuori, Heikki Takala, Ashley J. Hughes, Matthijs Panman, Maria Hoernke, Stephan Niebling, Léocadie Henry, Robert Henning, Irina Kosheleva, Vladimir Chukharev, Nikolai V. Tkachenko, Andreas Menzel, Gemma Newby, Dmitry Khakhulin, Michael Wulff, Janne A. Ihalainen, Sebastian Westenhoff: Structural photoactivation of a full-length bacterial phytochrome. Science Advances 2016, 2, e1600920.

Publication 3

Heikki Takala, Alexander Björling, Oskar Berntsson, Heli Lehtivuori, Stephan Niebling, Maria Hoernke, Irina Kosheleva, Robert Henning, Andreas Menzel, Janne A. Ihalainen*, and Sebastian Westenhoff: Signal amplification and transduction in phytochrome photosensors. Nature 2014, 509, 245-249.