Investigating ion transport and signaling processes involving membrane receptors is currently a hot topic in several fields at the crossroads with biophysics, biochemistry, cell biology and pharmacology [1-4]. These processes are governed by membrane proteins, which allow cells to communicate with their surrounding environment. In this respect, membrane proteins represent the link between the inner processes of cells and the related response to the external ambient. A practical consequence is the fact that they determine, for instance, whether or not the immune system is able to recognize a cell as foreign or not and to react consequently [4-5]. Such a crucial role makes membrane proteins one of the best targets of most – if not all – pharmaceutical research. Moreover, membrane proteins are responsible for cell adhesion in the tissues formation processes, control a wide spectrum of metabolic processes, perform energy production and transmission to proton and ion transfer in channels [6-8], and to photosynthesis . Such a wealth of functions makes these biological units interesting and important in biochemistry, life science, medicine and agriculture. Membrane receptor investigations are also crucial for food research: To control precisely perception of small molecules (odorant and taste molecules) we need to understand the underlying signaling processes; namely, each flavoring ingredient is as an agonist, or an allosteric modulator targeting smell or taste membrane receptors (typically GPCRs, which encompass more than 1% of the human genome) and ion channels.
The multidisciplinary character and the biological relevance of the topic proposed here, provides a clear motivation for a workshop and recently developed computational techniques [10-14], along with advances in the computational power of nowadays available platforms make a meeting on this subject also timely.
The field is sufficiently well assessed to be useful to practical applications in both fundamental and pharmacological domains, as confirmed by the list of references below.