Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Chemists explain the switchboards in our cells

05.08.2009
Our cells are controlled by billions of molecular "switches" and chemists at UC Santa Barbara have developed a theory that explains how these molecules work.

Their findings may significantly help efforts to build biologically based sensors for the detection of chemicals ranging from drugs to explosives to disease markers.

Their research is described in an article published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Biosensors are artificial molecular switches that mimic the natural ones, which direct chemical responses throughout the cell. "These switching molecules control the behavior of our cells," said Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, a postdoctoral scholar who spearheaded the project and is first author of the paper. "By studying these switches, we can better understand how living organisms are able to monitor their environment and use this knowledge to build better sensors to detect, for example, disease markers."

All creatures, from bacteria to humans, must monitor their environments in order to survive, explained the authors. They do so with biomolecular switches, made from RNA or proteins. For example, in our sinuses, there are receptor proteins that can detect different odors. Some of those scents warn us of danger; others tell us that food is nearby.

In addition to deriving the mathematical relationships underlying switching, Vallée-Bélisle spent months performing a hands-on study of an artificial biomolecular switch to demonstrate that the theory holds up quantitatively.

Like a light switch, biomolecular switches often exist in two states –– on or off. When a biomolecule switches from on to off, or vice versa, its shape changes. This change in structure is often triggered by the physical binding of a signaling molecule (for example, the odorant molecule responsible for a given smell) to the switch. However, unlike the single light switch that controls any one light in a house, cells use hundreds to millions of copies of each switch. Because there is more than one copy involved, the switching process is not a binary, "all-or-none" process. Instead, the output signal is determined by the fraction of switches that move from the off state to the on state.

In their PNAS paper, the authors describe a simple mathematical model that will allow biotech researchers to fine-tune the ease with which artificial biomolecular switches can be "flipped." They also shed light on how natural biomolecular switches evolved.

Additional co-authors are Francesco Ricci of the University of Rome Tor Vergata, and senior author Kevin Plaxco, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCSB.

Gail Gallessich | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsb.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

nachricht Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>