Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Crossing the boundary: how proteins permit entry to cell

Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding the inner workings of transporter proteins, which help essential chemicals move around the human body.

The findings, published today [16 October 2008] in Science Express, are important because there are hundreds of transporter proteins in the body and understanding their structure and how they work will help scientists design the next generation of drugs to treat illness and disease.

“Transporter proteins are very difficult to study,” says Professor Peter Henderson of the University of Leeds. “However, in Leeds we developed methods to maximise their expression in bacteria, and purify them very carefully so they retain their biological activity. We could then maintain a ‘pipeline’ to supply them to experts in a technique called protein crystallography, which requires very high intensity x-rays, available, for example, at the Diamond Light Source national synchrotron facility in Oxfordshire and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble.”

At Diamond, co-author Professor So Iwata and colleagues from Imperial College London’s Department of Life Sciences imaged the transporter protein Microbacterium hydantoin permease (Mhp1) - which lives in the oily membrane that surrounds bacterial cells – transporting molecules of hydantoin across its otherwise impermeable cell membrane. Once inside the cell, these molecules are converted to useful amino acids, which are of commercial importance, as they are used for food and drink supplements and to make pharmaceuticals.

The structure of Mhp1 was analysed both before and after it had taken in a hydantoin molecule from outside the cell. The researchers saw that the Mhp1 protein opens up on its outer-facing side, allowing the hydantoin molecule to move inside. Once the hydantoin is bound, the pathway closes behind it, ensuring that no other substances are let in. The inward-facing side then opens to release the hydantoin into the cell.

Commenting on the significance of the discovery, Professor Iwata says: “Our research has revealed the detailed molecular function of an important membrane protein. We now know how the protein facilitates the movement of hydantoin across the cell membrane without letting any other substances through at the same time. This mechanism is likely to be shared by many cell membrane transport proteins, including those in the human body, so this is an important step forward in our understanding of the fundamental processes which occur in our cells.”

The research was funded in the UK by the BBSRC and the EU and carried out in collaboration with scientists from Japan and Iran.

The function of Mhp1 was initially discovered during a two year visit to Leeds – which began in 2000 - by a Japanese researcher, Dr Suzuki, from Ajinomoto Inc. This work was patented in Japan and the USA.

Professor Peter Henderson adds: “We hope now to gain sufficient detail of the intimate structure of many transporter proteins to help chemists and industrial sponsors to design and develop drugs to manipulate their activities and treat a variety of diseases.”

Clare Elsley | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller 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: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>