Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A Pocketful of Uranium

Construction of a selective uranium-binding protein

The use of uranium as a nuclear fuel and in weapons increases the risk that people may come into contact with it, and the storage of radioactive uranium waste poses an additional environmental risk.

However, radioactivity is not the only problem related to contact with uranium; the toxicity of this metal is generally more dangerous to human health. Researchers are still looking for simple, effective methods for the sensitive detection and effective treatment of uranium poisoning.

Researchers led by Chuan He at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory (USA) have now developed a protein that binds to uranium selectively and tightly. As reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, it is based on a bacterial nickel-binding protein.

In oxygen-containing, aqueous environments, uranium normally exists in the form of the uranyl cation (UO22+), a linear molecule made of one uranium atom and two terminal oxygen atoms. The uranyl ion also likes to form coordination complexes. It prefers to surround itself with up to six ligands arranged in a plane around the ion’s “equator”. The research team thus chose to develop a protein that offers the uranyl ion a binding cavity in which it is surrounded by the protein’s side-groups in the manner it prefers.

As a template, the scientists used the protein NikR (nickel-responsive repressor) from E. coli, a regulator that reacts to nickel ions. When NikR is loaded with nickel ions, it binds to a special DNA sequence. This represses transcription of the neighboring genes, which code for proteins involved in nickel uptake. If no nickel is present in the bacteria, NikR does not bind to the DNA.

The nickel ion is located in a binding cavity in which it is surrounded by a square-planar arrangement of binding groups. By using several mutation steps, the researchers generated a new protein that can bind uranium instead of nickel. Only three amino acids had to be changed. In the specially designed cavity, the uranyl group has six binding partners that surround it equatorially. In addition, there are spaces for the two terminal oxygen atoms of uranyl.

This NikR mutant only binds to DNA in the presence of uranyl, not in the presence of nickel or other metal ions. This confirms its selectivity for uranyl and may make it useful for the detection of uranyl and nuclear waste bioremediation. It also represents the first step towards developing potential protein- or peptide-based agents for treatment of uranium poisoning.

Author: Chuan He, University of Chicago (USA),

Title: Engineering A Uranyl-Specific Binding Protein from NikR

Angewandte Chemie International Edition, doi: 10.1002/anie.200805262

Chuan He | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>