Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Computational Biochemist Uncovers a Molecular Clue to Evolution

11.09.2008
A Florida State University researcher who uses high-powered computers to map the workings of proteins has uncovered a mechanism that gives scientists a better understanding of how evolution occurs at the molecular level.

Such an understanding eventually could lead to the development of new and more effective antiparasitic drugs.

Wei Yang is an assistant professor in FSU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and a faculty member in the university’s Institute of molecular biophysics. Working with colleagues from FSU, Duke University and Brandeis University, he recently produced remarkable computer models of an enzyme that carries the unwieldy name of inosine monophosphate dehrydrogenase, or IMPDH for short. IMPDH is responsible for initiating certain metabolic processes in DNA and RNA, enabling the biological system to reproduce quickly.

“In creating these simulations of IMPDH, we observed something that hadn’t been seen before,” Yang said. “Previously, enzymes were believed to have a single ‘pathway’ through which they deliver catalytic agents to biological cells in order to bring about metabolic changes. But with IMPDH, we determined that there was a second pathway that also was used to cause these chemical transformations. The second pathway didn’t operate as efficiently as the first one, but it was active nevertheless.”

... more about:
»Evolution »Molecular »Yang »enzyme

Why would an enzyme have two pathways dedicated to the same task? Yang and his colleagues believe that the slower pathway is an evolutionary vestige left over from an ancient enzyme that evolved over eons into modern-day IMPDH.

The finding is significant for several reasons, Yang said.

“First of all, this offers a rare glimpse of evolutionary processes at work on the molecular level,” Yang said. “Typically when we talk about evolution, we’re referring to a process of adaptation that occurs in a population of organisms over an extended period of time. Our research examines such adaptations at the most basic level, which helps scientists to develop a fuller picture of how evolution actually occurs.

“This also represents a big step forward in our efforts to create computational simulations of biological processes,” Yang said. “In this case, we first made a prediction of the enzyme structure via computer and later verified it through direct observation in a laboratory, rather than the other way around. This is a most unusual accomplishment, and one that indicates we are becoming more advanced in our ability to answer questions relating to biological functions at the molecular level.”

“Because of the key role that IMPDH plays, scientists have focused on developing new antiparasitic drugs that target it,” Yang said. “Our research will certainly contribute to this process.”

Joseph Schlenoff, the chairman of FSU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, praised Yang’s computational methods as “extremely powerful because they are rigorous, make few assumptions and approximate the complexity of the real world. The accurate predictions that result represent success that has been promised to us for so long by scientists using computers.”

Collaborating with Yang on the project were Gavin J.P. Naylor, an associate professor in FSU’s Department of Scientific Computing; Donghong Min, a postdoctoral associate in the Institute of Molecular Physics; Hongzhi Li, a former postdoc in the Institute of Molecular Physics; Clemens Lakner, a graduate assistant in the Department of Biological Science; David Swofford, a research scientist at Duke University and former FSU faculty member; Lizbeth Hedstrom, a professor of biochemistry at Brandeis University; and postdocs Helen R. Josephine and Iaian S. MacPherson, both of Brandeis.

Together the researchers wrote about their findings in a paper, “An Enzymatic Atavist Revealed in Dual Pathways for Water Activation,” that was published this summer in PLoS Biology, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science. Visit http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.0060206 to read the paper.

Dan Herschlag, a professor of biochemistry at Stanford University, edited the paper for PLoS Biology. He praised it for its innovative approach.

“This work reveals basic aspects of how enzymes work and how they have evolved,” Herschlag said. “The study melds experiment and computation in a powerful fashion and represents a model for how to use interdisciplinary research to answer important questions.”

Wei Yang | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://ww.fsu.edu

Further reports about: Evolution Molecular Yang enzyme

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

Millions through license revenues

27.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

The TU Ilmenau develops tomorrow’s chip technology today

27.04.2017 | Information Technology

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>