Krishnakumar M Ravikumar, Wei Huang, and Sichun Yang, authors of the article featured on the cover of the August 21 issue of Biophysical Journal, describe the spherical map and protein orientations depicted on the cover. The image is from the article Coarse-Grained Simulations of Protein-Protein Association: An Energy Landscape Perspective. The image was composed using “Mayavi,” an open source data visualizing software for scientists.
The idea of submitting cover art never came to mind when we prepared the manuscript. One of the reviewers complimented our spherical maps, suggesting that they were interesting and insightful. This prompted us to consider submitting cover art that would succinctly summarize the study. We realized that a visually appealing graphic would help grab the attention of a wide spectrum of readers and we are very happy that we were chosen for the cover of Biophysical Journal.
In the image, the transparent globe surrounding one of the proteins is an imaginary surface on which the contour lines are plotted. These contours represent the energy landscape when the two proteins interact. The cover art thus captures the main theme behind our study, which is protein-protein interactions. In our study, we also introduce a method to sample different protein conformations, which is aptly represented by the three different orientations of the second protein on the surface of the globe.
The motivation for the graphic was to represent the results of our study, but it also gave us an opportunity to explore our artistic abilities. As scientists, we do not often get this opportunity, and we wanted to try our hand at it. We are definitely not artists, but in retrospect, it does feel good to take a break from science and switch to art once in a while.
Our recent research efforts can be found at http://yanglab.case.edu/.
– Krishna, Wei, and Sichun