Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Protein origami: Quick folders are the best

31.01.2013
The evolutionary history of proteins shows that protein folding is an important factor. Especially the speed of protein folding plays a key role.

This was the result of a computer analysis carried out by researchers at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. For almost four billions of years, there has been a trend towards faster folding.


Nature has come up with numerous forms of protein folding. Most of these forms emerged after the biological Big Bang, which took place approximately 1.5 billion years ago. According to the study, folding speed belongs to the important factors of this diversification.
Image: Cedric Debes / HITS

“The reason might be that this makes proteins less susceptible to clumping, and that they can carry out their tasks faster,” says Dr. Frauke Gräter (HITS) who led the analysis. The results were now published in PLoS Computational Biology.

Proteins are elementary building blocks of life. They often perform vital functions. In order to become active, proteins have to fold into three-dimensional structures. Misfolding of proteins leads to diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Creutzfeld-Jakob. So which strategies did nature develop over the course of evolution to improve protein folding?

To examine this question, the chemist Dr. Frauke Gräter (Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies) looked far back into the history of the Earth. Together with her colleague Prof. Gustavo Caetano-Anolles at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she used computer analyses to examine the folding speed of all currently known proteins. The researchers have seen the following trend: For most of protein evolution, the folding speed increased, from archaea to multicellular organisms. However, 1.5 billion years ago, more complex structures emerged and caused a biological ‘Big Bang’. This has led to the development of slower-folding protein structures. Remarkably, the tendency towards higher speed in protein origami overall dominated, regardless of the length of amino acid chains constituting the proteins.

“The reason for higher folding speed might be that this makes proteins less susceptible to aggregation, so that they can carry out their tasks faster,” says Dr. Frauke Gräter, head of the Molecular Biomechanics research group at HITS.

Genetics and biophysics for large volumes of data

In their work, the researchers used an interdisciplinary approach combining genetics and biophysics. “It is the first analysis to combine all known protein structures and genomes with folding rates as a physical parameter,” says Dr. Gräter.

The analysis of 92,000 proteins and 989 genomes can only be tackled with computational methods. The group of Gustavo Caetano-Anolles, head of the Evolutionary Bioinformatics Laboratory at Urbana-Champaign, had originally classified most structurally known proteins from the Protein Database (PDB) according to age. For this study, Minglei Wang in his laboratory identified protein sequences in the genomes, which had the same folding structure as the known proteins. He then applied an algorithm to compare them to each other on a time scale. In this way, it is possible to determine which proteins became part of which organism and when. After that, Cedric Debes, a member of Dr. Gräter’s group, applied a mathematical model to predict the folding rate of proteins.

The individual folding steps differ in speed and can take from nanoseconds to minutes. No microscope or laser would be able to capture these different time scales for so many proteins. A computer simulation calculating all folding structures in all proteins would take centuries to run on a mainframe computer. This is why the researchers worked with a less data-intensive method. They calculated the folding speed of the single proteins using structures that have been previously determined in experiments: A protein always folds at the same points. If these points are far apart from each other, it takes longer to fold than if they lie close to each other. With the so-called Size-Modified Contact Order (SMCO), it is possible to predict how fast these points will meet and thus how fast the protein will fold, regardless of its length.

“Our results show that in the beginning there were proteins which could not fold very well,” Dr. Gräter summarizes. “Over time, nature improved protein folding so that eventually, more complex structures such as the many specialized proteins of humans were able to develop.”

Shorter and faster for evolution

Amino acid chains, which make up proteins, also became shorter over the course of evolution. This was another factor contributing to the increase in folding speed, as has been shown in the study.

“Since eukaryotes, i.e. organisms with a cell nucleus, emerged, protein folding became somewhat less crucial,” says Frauke Gräter. Since then, nature has developed a complex machinery to prevent and repair misfolded proteins. One example are the so-called chaperones. “It seems as if nature would accept a certain level of disorder in order to develop structures which could not have evolved otherwise.”

The number of known genomes and protein structures is continually increasing, thus expanding the data bases for further computer analyses of protein evolution. Frauke Gräter says “With future analyses of protein evolution, it might be possible for us to answer the related question whether proteins became more stable or more flexible over their billion-year-long history of evolution.”

The study was supported by the Klaus Tschira Foundation and the National Science Foundation of the US.
Scientific publication:
Debès C, Wang M, Caetano-Anollés G, Gräter F (2013) Evolutionary Optimization of Protein Folding. PLoS Comput Biol 9(1): e1002861. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002861
URL: http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002861

Press contact:
Dr. Peter Saueressig
Public Relations
Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS)
Tel: +49-6221-533-245
peter.saueressig@h-its.org

Scientific Contact:
Dr. Frauke Gräter
Molecular Biomechanics group
Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS)
Tel: +49-6221-533-267
frauke.graeter@h-its.org

Prof. Dr. Gustavo Caetano-Anollés
Evolutionary Bioinformatics Laboratory
Dep. Of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
332 National Soybean Res Ctr, 1101 West Peabody Drive
Urbana, IL 61801
+1 (217) 333-8172
gca@illinois.edu
http://cropsci.illinois.edu/directory/gca
HITS
HITS (Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies) is a private, non-profit research institute. As a research institute of the Klaus Tschira Foundation, HITS conducts basic research from astrophysics to cell biology, with a focus on processing and structuring large volumes of data. The institute is jointly managed by Klaus Tschira and Andreas Reuter.

Evolutionary Bioinformatics Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Evolutionary Bioinformatics Laboratory at the University of Illinois focuses on creative ways to mine, visualize and integrate data from structural and functional genomic research, with a special focus on evolution of macromolecular structure and networks in biology.

Dr. Peter Saueressig | idw
Further information:
http://www.h-its.org
http://www.h-its.org/english/press/pressreleases.php?we_objectID=951
http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002861

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New switch decides between genome repair and death of cells
27.09.2016 | University of Cologne - Universität zu Köln

nachricht A blue stoplight to prevent runaway photosynthesis
27.09.2016 | National Institute for Basic Biology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First quantum photonic circuit with electrically driven light source

Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.

Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Artificial Intelligence Helps in the Discovery of New Materials

With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...

Im Focus: Complex hardmetal tools out of the 3D printer

For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.

Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...

Im Focus: Launch of New Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing

At AKL’16, the International Laser Technology Congress held in May this year, interest in the topic of process control was greater than expected. Appropriately, the event was also used to launch the Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing. The group provides a forum for representatives from industry and research to initiate pre-competitive projects and discuss issues such as standards, potential cost savings and feasibility.

In the age of industry 4.0, laser technology is firmly established within manufacturing. A wide variety of laser techniques – from USP ablation and additive...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Laser use for neurosurgery and biofabrication - LaserForum 2016 focuses on medical technology

27.09.2016 | Event News

Experts from industry and academia discuss the future mobile telecommunications standard 5G

23.09.2016 | Event News

ICPE in Graz for the seventh time

20.09.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

New switch decides between genome repair and death of cells

27.09.2016 | Life Sciences

Nanotechnology for energy materials: Electrodes like leaf veins

27.09.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

‘Missing link’ found in the development of bioelectronic medicines

27.09.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>