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Structural and Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics

Houston, Texas

A BCM research lab.
Structural and Computational Biology & Molecular Biophysics
not shown on screen

B. Montgomery Pettitt, Ph.D.

B. Montgormery Pettitt, Ph.D.

Robert A. Welch University Professor of Chemistry in Pharmacology and Toxicology

Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

SCBMB Executive Committee Member

Chair of the Keck Center for Interdisciplinary Bioscience

Director of the Sealy Center for Structural Biology & Molecular Biophysics

University of Texas Medical Branch


B.S., Chemistry, University of Houston (1975)
B.S., Mathematics, University of Houston (1975)
Post Doc, Theoretical Chemistry, University of Houston (1980)
Post Doc, Theoretical Chemistry, UT Austin (1980-82)
NIH Post Doc, Harvard, (1983-85)

Research Interests

The solution environment as well as the sequence are known to determine the conformation, kinetic and thermodynamic behavior of polymers. It is widely appreciated for biopolymers that biological activity is usually found within a narrow range of solvent and salt concentration. Formulating hypotheses to explain this sensitivity is a unifying goal for the studies in the laboratory. The physical sensitivity is also reflected in a parameter sensitivity in theories and simulations of these systems which must be accounted for in any physical interpretations. Projects in this laboratory bring theoretical and calculational on approaches to bear to the following array of problems:

  • Development of methods for calculating internal conformational structure and interpreting conformational equilibria of biomolecules in aqueous environments.
  • Stability and thermodynamics of multiple strand DNA/RNA structures including duplex, triplex and tetrad species. Base plane mismatch energetics.
  • Peptide/Protein folding via solution stability criteria. Theory of biomolecular solution phase separations.
  • Structural and thermodynamic description of neat polar molecular fluids, including water, ions, polar biomolecular solutes and other condensed phase systems via integral equation and density functional methods.
  • Development of theoretical techniques for the description of the thermodynamics and structure of biomolecules as anisotropic fluids.
  • Development of computer simulation methodology for material science and biotechnology.
  • Polymer correlations in composite materials. Interactions with carbon-black.

Selected Publications

  • Stoilova-McPhie S, Lynch GC, Ludtke S and Pettitt BM. Domain organization of membrane-bound factor VIII. Biopolymers, 99(7):448-59 (2013). PubMed
  • Myers CB and Pettitt BM. Communication: Origin of the contributions to DNA structure in phages. J Chem Phys, 138(7):071103 (2013). PubMed
  • Harrison A, Binder H, Buhot A, Burden CJ, Carlon E, Gibas C, Gamble LJ, Halperin A, Hooyberghs J, Kreil DP, Levicky R, Noble PA, Ott A, Pettitt BM, Tautz D and Pozhitkov AE. Physico-chemical foundations underpinning microarray and next generation sequencing experiments. Nucleic Acids Res, 41(5):2779-96 (2013). PubMed
  • Lin B, Wong KY, Hu C, Kokubo H and Pettitt BM. Erratum: Fast Calculations of Electrostatic Solvation Free Energy from Reconstructed Solvent Density using proximal Radial Distribution Functions. J Phys Chem Lett, 3(1):69 (2012). PubMed
  • Fogg JM, Randall GL, Pettitt BM, Sumners de WL, Harris SA and Zechiedrich L. Bullied no more:when and how DNA shoves proteins around. Q Rev Biophysics, 45(3):257-99 (2012). PubMed
  • Howard JJ and Pettitt BM. Integral equations in the study of polar and ionic interaction site fluids. J Stat Phys, 145(2):441-466 (2011). PubMed
  • Vainrub A and Pettitt BM. Accurate prediction of binding thermodynamics for DNA on surfaces. J Phys Chem, 115(45):13300-3 (2011). PubMed

For more publications, see listing on PubMed.

Contact Information

Department: Sealy Center for Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics
Address: Research Building 6
301 University Blvd.
University of Texas Medical Branch
Galveston, TX 77555
Phone: 409-772-0724
Additional Links: Sealy Center for Structural Biology W.M. Keck Center

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