Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Oxygen 'Sensor' May Shut Down DNA Transcription

20.06.2012
Change in key ingredient changes protein shape in methanogen

A key component found in an ancient anaerobic microorganism may serve as a sensor to detect potentially fatal oxygen, a University of Arkansas researcher and his colleagues have found.

This helps researchers learn more about the function of these components, called iron-sulfur clusters, which occur in different parts of cells in all living creatures.

Daniel Lessner, assistant professor of biological sciences, and his colleagues report their findings in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Lessner studies methanogens, ancient anaerobic microorganisms that live in extreme environments, including the human gut. In these organisms, he looks at RNA polymerase, a protein that “reads” DNA and produces RNA, which contains codes to build proteins. This process is found in most of the things we think of as “living.”

Methanogens interest space scientists because they can survive in extreme temperature conditions and in hostile environments. They interest health researchers because some species found in the human gut may influence digestion. They also interest energy producers because they are the only life form that produces methane gas. Because of this, it’s important to understand how these ancient microscopic creatures work.

The iron-sulfur clusters also are important because they exist in most life forms, including humans – in fact, you could not survive without your iron-sulfur clusters. “It is likely that life evolved at the interface of iron and sulfur minerals,” Lessner said. In some methanogens and other single-celled organisms, the protein RNA polymerase contains iron-sulfur clusters. However, these iron-sulfur clusters are not typically found in this protein, except in certain species, including methanogens.

Better understanding of the role of iron-sulfur clusters in this simple organism will help scientists understand and perhaps control production pathways in these microorganisms to produce methane gas as a biofuel.

The researchers decided to see if they could figure out why these organisms contain iron-sulfur clusters in their RNA polymerase. They found that without the clusters, a part of the protein changed its shape, which would in turn change its interactions with other parts of the protein. The clusters might serve to regulate the assembly of the parts of RNA polymerase.

The researchers believe that the iron-sulfur clusters serve as a sensor to shut down the creation of RNA from DNA in the presence of oxygen because oxygen reacts with iron-sulfur clusters to destroy them. This in turn would help the methanogen survive.

“This may be a way to conserve energy,” Lessner said. “Organisms may have retained these clusters to serve a similar role in diverse species so that organisms can respond to changes in the environment.

“This is the first step in figuring out the protein properties and seeing how it works,” he said. Next the researchers will genetically modify the protein to change the number of iron-sulfur clusters and see what happens.

This paper was made possible by a National Science Foundation grant.
CONTACTS:
Dan Lessner, assistant professor, biological sciences
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
479-575-2239, dlessner@uark.edu
Melissa Lutz Blouin, senior director of academic communications
University Relations
479-575-5555, blouin@uark.edu

Melissa Lutz Blouin | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.uark.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed
18.01.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht 127 at one blow...
18.01.2017 | Stiftung Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Leibniz-Institut für Biodiversität der Tiere

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

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...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>