Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The assembly of protein strands into fibrils

12.04.2010
The Atomic Force Microscope depicts on its screen the few nanometer thick and few micrometer long fibers as white flexible sticks, crisscrossing the surface on which they are deposited. The very peculiar property of these proteins lies in fact that they can self assemble into complex ribbon-like twisted fibers.

Researchers at ETH Zürich, EPF Lausanne and University of Fribourg have teamed up to take Atomic Force Microscopy images of the fibers and to analyze them using concepts from polymer physics and theoretical modeling.

This combination of expertise has lead them to propose a set of general rules governing the assembly of filaments into thicker and twisted ribbon like fibers. Their results are published in the current issue of the scientific journal "Nature Nanotechnology".

"The model that we propose is extremely precise in its predictions", says Raffaele Mezzenga, Professor of Food and Soft Materials Sciences at the ETH Zürich. "Up to now there was no such exact and general model for the formation of Amyloid fibers", continues Giovanni Dietler, Professor of Physics of Living Matter, at the EPF Lausanne.

The structure of the Amyloid fibers as it was unveiled by the experiments, surprised the researchers. Single proteins build the long filaments and subsequently the filaments assemble side by side to form the ribbon-like twisted fibers.

Mezzenga explains that the ribbon-like structure is the logic consequence of the strong charge carried by the building blocks of the fibers. In fact, the single proteins feel a strong mutual repulsion preventing them to pack and the ribbon structure is the only one that permits to limit this repulsion. Presently one missing information in the present model, is the exact nature of the short range attraction between the building blocks that drives in the first place the assembly among the protein filaments. Scientists agree that along the filaments there are charge-less domains of hydrophobic character (water repellant) that are the source of the short-range attraction. So there is a balance between attractive and repulsive interactions and the results is the ribbon like twisted conformation.

Self-organizing proteins are common in living matter and they are found in large aggregates for example in blood coagulation. Spherical like proteins are used in food industry as emulsifiers, gelling and foaming agents and in vitro they form Amyloid like structures. These latter fibers have properties (elasticity, solubility, etc) favorable for food texturing or to produce special structures. The milk protein beta-lactoglubulin studied by Mezzenga and his colleagues is at the beginning spherical and by a heat treatment accompanied by acid environment it aggregates into the filamentous structures. Beta-lactoglobulin is an important component of the milk serum and therefore very relevant for food industry.

The knowledge gained by the scientists on this food protein can potentially benefit medical sciences. In fact Amyloid-like fibers appear in humans affected by neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer- or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. These human fibers, although made out of a very different proteins, are also ribbon-like and twisted and their assembly into long aggregates is presently under intense scrutiny. The model proposed by the team could also help to understand the genesis and development of theses diseases.

Giovanni Dietler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.epfl.ch

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>