Iron-sulfur clusters are critical to life on earth. They are necessary for protein function in cellular processes, such as respiration in humans and other organisms and photosynthesis by plants. "But we do not understand how Fe-S molecules are made or the specifics of how they bond," said Callie Raulfs of Christiansburg, Va. "It does not happen spontaneously. It has to be regulated."
Diseases such as Friedrich's ataxia and several types of anemia are a result of iron-sulfur cluster (ISC) assembly malfunctions.
Using genetic and biochemical techniques, Ph.D. students Raulfs and Ina P. O'Carroll, of Tirana, Albania, have isolated components of the ISC machinery in the process of making iron-sulfur clusters. "This work provides insight into the sequential steps of the iron-sulfur cluster assembly process, helping to explain how molecules of iron and sulfur are synthesized and distributed in cells," said O'Carroll.
The work, "In vivo iron-sulfur cluster formation," by Raulfs, O'Carroll, Virginia Tech post-doctoral associates Patricia C. Dos Santos of Brazil and Mihaela-Carmen Unciuleac of Romania, and Dennis R. Dean of Blacksburg, professor of biochemistry and director of the Fralin Biotechnology Center at Virginia Tech, has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) Online Early Edition the week of June 16-20, 2008.
Previous studies by Dean and others have demonstrated that proteins can assemble clusters from components in vitro systems – that is, outside of an organism. Ten years ago, working with nitrogen-fixation systems, Dean's lab was the first to discover ISC proteins. Now Dean's students, Raulfs and O'Carroll, are the first to witness the assembly process in vivo – within a cell.
"The cool thing is we've come up with a way to observe ISC proteins from their native host with a cluster attached," said O'Carroll. "The system also allows us to capture different phases of the process."
The students have isolated three different intermediates of the ISC proteins involved in intercellular biosynthesis – or the cluster assembly process.
Rather than multiplying the proteins by placing them in E. coli, the Virginia Tech team used Azotobacter vinelandii, an aerobic, soil microbe that fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere, to obtain natural levels of the ISC proteins. "A vinelandii grows quickly and keeps the interior of the cell free of oxygen, which is important, since oxygen can destroy Fe-S clusters," said Raulfs, who first isolated a protein complex with a cluster attached, providing in vivo evidence that the two proteins get together and form a cluster.
"Because we are isolating proteins from the cell, we are also able to observe interactions between different Fe-S cluster asembly proteins," said O'Carroll. "We have been able to isolate a complex between the two major players in iron-sulfur assembly, the cluster assembly scaffold (IscU) and the sulfur-delivery protein (IscS)."
The methodology is to add a histidine amino acid tag to the ISC proteins "so we can fish the proteins out of the cell," said O'Carroll.
"Because we are fishing the cluster-containing protein out of the cell that has all of the other assembly proteins present at physiological levels, we are able to observe what else comes with the protein. What was really exciting in this case was that we saw large amounts of one of the other iron sulfur cluster assembly protein, IscS." said O'Carroll.
The work marks the first time researchers have been able to observe ISC proteins from the balanced environment of the native cell.
Next, they plan to determine the role of the individual genes in the set that produces ISC proteins in order to determine the effect of each gene on the assembly process. "The goal is to determine the events and the order in the ISC assembly process so we can figure out how cells make clusters and deliver them to specific target proteins," said O'Carroll.
The researchers are now developing a system that others can use to study proteins.
Susan Trulove | EurekAlert!
Complementing conventional antibiotics
24.05.2018 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)
23.05.2018 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering
24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy