Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Atomic structure of the mammalian “fatty acid factory” determined

08.09.2008
Promising targets for drug development

Mammalian fatty acid synthase is one of the most complex molecular synthetic machines in human cells. It is also a promising target for the development of anti-cancer and anti-obesity drugs and the treatment of metabolic disorders. Now researchers at ETH Zurich have determined the atomic structure of a mammalian fatty acid synthase. Their results have just been published in Science magazine.

Synthesis of fatty acids is a central cellular process that has been studied for many decades. Fatty acids are used in the cell as energy storage compounds, messenger molecules and building blocks for the cellular envelope. Until now, individual steps of this process have been investigated using isolated bacterial enzymes. However, in higher organisms – except plants – fatty acid synthesis is catalyzed by large multifunctional proteins where many individual enzymes are brought together to form a “molecular assembly line”.

The atomic structure is the result of many years of research

As described in this week’s issue of “Science” magazine, researchers at ETH Zurich, supported by the National Centre of Excellence in Research (NCCR) in Structural Biology at the Swiss National Science Foundation, determined the high-resolution structure of a mammalian fatty acid synthase using data collected at the Swiss Light Source (SLS) of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland.

These results crown the efforts begun in 2001 to determine the detailed structures of fatty acid synthases in higher organisms by a relatively small group of scientists at ETH Zurich. The group, consisting of Timm Maier, Marc Leibundgut and Simon Jenni in the laboratory of Prof. Nenad Ban, published their first papers describing architectures of fungal and mammalian fatty acid synthases two years ago. That was followed last year by two papers on the atomic structures of fungal fatty acid synthases and the mechanism of substrate shuttling and delivery in these multi-enzymes.

Now this latest publication describes the atomic structure of the mammalian fatty acid synthase. These results reveal the details of all catalytic active sites responsible for iterative fatty acid synthesis and show how the flexibility of this large multi-enzyme is used for transferring substrates from one enzymatic active site to the next. The structure can be considered a milestone for future research in the field.

Fatty acid synthases as drug targets?

In addition to the fundamental scientific interest in the function of this multi-enzyme that plays a central role in primary metabolism, mammalian fatty acid synthase is also considered a promising drug target. Although most fat accumulated in animals and humans is delivered to cells by ingestion and not by de novo synthesis, compounds that inhibit the function of the mammalian fatty acid synthase induce weight reduction in animals, showing potential for the treatment of obesity and obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes and coronary disorders. Furthermore, due to the increased requirement for fatty acid synthesis in cancer cells, inhibitors of this enzyme have anti-tumor activity, making fatty acid synthase an attractive drug target for anti-cancer therapy.

Multi-enzymes: the ultimate organic chemists

Mammalian fatty acid synthase belongs to a large family of multi-enzymes, some of which are responsible for the synthesis of complex natural products with antibiotic, anti-cancer, anti-fungal and immunosuppressive properties that are of outstanding medical relevance. The structure of mammalian fatty acid synthase reveals how different catalytic domains are excised or inserted in various members of this family to yield multi-enzymes capable of synthesizing a large variety of chemical products. The structure will facilitate the design of molecular assembly lines for the production of improved compounds. In particular, the engineering of novel multi-enzymes for the production of modified antibiotics is important in the fight against resistant strains of bacteria.

Literature reference:
Science 5 September 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5894, pp. 1315 – 1322, doi: 10.1126/science.1161269

Roman Klingler | alfa
Further information:
http://www.cc.ethz.ch
http://www.cc.ethz.ch/media/picturelibrary/news/Fettsaeure_Synthase
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/321/5894/1315

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>