By swapping replacement parts into the backbone of a synthetic hormone, UW–Madison graduate student Ross Cheloha and his mentor, Sam Gellman, along with collaborators at Harvard Medical School, have built a version of a parathyroid hormone that resists degradation in laboratory mice. As a result, the altered hormone can stay around longer — and at much higher concentration, says Gellman, professor of chemistry at the UW.
Hormones are signaling molecules that are distributed throughout the body, usually in the blood. Hormones elicit responses from only those cells that carry appropriate receptor molecules. "Receptors have evolved to recognize a very specific signal in a sea of biological fluids that is full of molecular messages," Gellman says.
The relationship between a receptor and its signaling molecule is often likened to that between a lock and a key.
"We're excited because we have preserved the ability to activate the receptor" by altering the backbone of the hormone, which holds the essential contact points in place, Gellman says. "While retaining, even enhancing, the signaling ability, we have diminished the peptide's susceptibility to the biodegradation mechanisms that nature uses to eliminate signals over time."
Peptides are segments of proteins. Peptide hormones, like the better-known steroid hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, can convey a signal to billions of cells at once, even at tiny concentrations.
For a study published June 15 in Nature Biotechnology, the researchers altered a highly successful synthetic parathyroid hormone called teriparatide, which is used to combat severe osteoporosis.
But the real excitement of the discovery is the potential impact on a large class of peptide drugs, Gellman says. "A substantial group of receptors, including some involved in diabetes, respond to peptide signals, but peptides are quickly degraded in the body. Our approach seems to suggest a general strategy to retain the ability to target a specific receptor while diminishing the action of degrading enzymes. The key is that the receptor is looking for one shape while the destructive enzyme seeks a different shape."
Gellman says the idea of replacing segments of the peptide backbone with artificial units once seemed heretical. "Most people expected that you could not change the backbone, which alters the spacing and orientation of the essential contact points, without making the molecule unrecognizable to the receptor."
Gellman has assigned his rights for the discovery to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The study's first author, Cheloha, is a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at UW-Madison. Co-author Thomas J. Gardella led a team at Harvard Medical School that conducted the biological assessments.
Potentially, the "alter-the-backbone" strategy could allow oral dosing of the rather fragile peptide drugs, which today must be injected to avoid destruction in the stomach and small intestine. By protecting the drugs from degrading enzymes, the new approach could also help sustain higher drug concentrations in the bloodstream.
The altered backbone also seems to make minor changes in signals that the receptor, once activated, transmits into the cell, Gellman says. "Changing the sites of backbone modification results in different profiles of response. Building drug molecules that activate only a certain type of response might allow us to dial out undesired side effects; but that's just a hope at this point."
To date, much of the focus on drug development has concerned the external features of signaling molecules, which directly contact a receptor, Gellman says. "The traditional approach is to keep the skeleton the same and modify the surface components. Our approach is just the opposite, keep the surface components the same, and modify the skeleton. Now that it is clear that this non-traditional approach can be successful, others are likely to try it."
The research was funded by National Institutes of Health grant #GM056414 and other sources.
—David Tenenbaum, 608-265-8549, email@example.com
Sam Gellman | Eurek Alert!
New Model of T Cell Activation
27.05.2016 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Fungi – a promising source of chemical diversity
27.05.2016 | Leibniz-Institut für Naturstoff-Forschung und Infektionsbiologie - Hans-Knöll-Institut (HKI)
A biological and energy-efficient process, developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck, converts nitrogen compounds in wastewater treatment facilities into harmless atmospheric nitrogen gas. This innovative technology is now being refined and marketed jointly with the United States’ DC Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water). The largest DEMON®-system in a wastewater treatment plant is currently being built in Washington, DC.
The DEMON®-system was developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck 11 years ago. Today this successful technology has been implemented in about 70...
Permanent magnets are very important for technologies of the future like electromobility and renewable energy, and rare earth elements (REE) are necessary for their manufacture. The Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, Germany, has now succeeded in identifying promising approaches and materials for new permanent magnets through use of an in-house simulation process based on high-throughput screening (HTS). The team was able to improve magnetic properties this way and at the same time replaced REE with elements that are less expensive and readily available. The results were published in the online technical journal “Scientific Reports”.
The starting point for IWM researchers Wolfgang Körner, Georg Krugel, and Christian Elsässer was a neodymium-iron-nitrogen compound based on a type of...
In the Beyond EUV project, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing key technologies for the manufacture of a new generation of microchips using EUV radiation at a wavelength of 6.7 nm. The resulting structures are barely thicker than single atoms, and they make it possible to produce extremely integrated circuits for such items as wearables or mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.
In 1965 Gordon Moore formulated the law that came to be named after him, which states that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every one to two...
Characterization of high-quality material reveals important details relevant to next generation nanoelectronic devices
Quantum mechanics is the field of physics governing the behavior of things on atomic scales, where things work very differently from our everyday world.
When current comes in discrete packages: Viennese scientists unravel the quantum properties of the carbon material graphene
In 2010 the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for the discovery of the exceptional material graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms...
24.05.2016 | Event News
20.05.2016 | Event News
19.05.2016 | Event News
30.05.2016 | Materials Sciences
30.05.2016 | Materials Sciences
30.05.2016 | Trade Fair News