Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Chemists concoct new agents to easily study critical cell proteins

01.11.2010
They are the portals to the cell, gateways through which critical signals and chemicals are exchanged between living cells and their environments.

But these gateways -- proteins that span the cell membrane and connect the world outside the cell to its vital inner workings – remain, for the most part, black boxes with little known about their structures and how they work.

They are of intense interest to scientists as they are the targets on which many drugs act, but are notoriously difficult to study because extracting these proteins intact from cell membranes is tricky.

Now, however, a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Stanford University has devised a technology to more easily obtain membrane proteins for study. Writing this week (Oct. 31) in the journal Nature Methods, the group reports the development of a class of agents capable of extracting complex membrane proteins without distorting their shape, a key to understanding how they work.

"The proteins are embedded in the membrane to control what gets into the cell and what gets out," explains Samuel Gellman, a UW-Madison professor of chemistry and a senior author of the paper along with Brian Kobilka of Stanford and Bernadette Byrne of Imperial College London. "If we want to understand life at the molecular level, we need to understand the properties and functions of these membrane proteins."

The catch with membrane proteins and unleashing their potential, however, is getting insight into their physical properties, says Gellman.

Like other kinds of proteins, membrane proteins exhibit a complex pattern of folding, and determining the three-dimensional shapes they assume in the membrane provides essential insight into how they do business.

Proteins are workhorse molecules in any organism, and myriad proteins are known. Structures have been solved for many thousands of so-called "soluble" proteins, but only a couple of hundred membrane protein structures are known, Gellman notes. This contrast is important because roughly one-third of the proteins encoded in the human genome appear to be membrane proteins.

To effectively study a protein, scientists must have access to it. A primary obstacle has been simply getting proteins out of the membrane while maintaining their functional shapes. To that end, Gellman's group has developed a family of new chemical agents, known as amphiphiles, that are easily prepared, customizable to specific proteins and cheap.

"These amphiphiles are very simple," says Gellman. "That's one of their charms. The other is that they can be tuned to pull out many different kinds of proteins."

The hope, according to Gellman, is that the new technology will facilitate research at the biomedical frontier.

The development of the amphiphiles was conducted in close collaboration with groups like Kobilka's, which specializes in techniques that help resolve the three-dimensional structures of proteins found in cell membranes.

The lead author of the new study is Pil Seok Chae, a postdoctoral fellow in Gellman's lab. The work was supported primarily by the U.S National Institutes of Health.

-- Terry Devitt, 608-262-8282, trdevitt@wisc.edu

Samuel Gellman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Modern genetic sequencing tools give clearer picture of how corals are related
17.08.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies
16.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter

17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences

Mars 2020 mission to use smart methods to seek signs of past life

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>