In this month’s Genome Biology, Mitch Kostich and colleagues from the Schering-Plough Research Institute (NJ, USA) have identified and mapped an important group of molecules known as protein kinases. These molecules are central to the communication of information both within and between cells, in a process known as cell signaling. Defective protein kinases are associated with hundreds of human diseases, including some types of cancer, and it is hoped that this map, which shows the relationships between 510 human protein kinases, will help researchers find new drugs that can specifically target diseases caused by a defective protein kinase, as well as unlocking the secrets of 60 previously unidentified members of this family.
If our bodies are to work properly, it is important that cells are doing the right thing at the right time. To get things right, the human body has evolved complex signaling pathways that allow our molecules to communicate with each other. Protein kinases are a central part of many signaling pathways, helping to regulate virtually every function in human cells. They belong to a class of biological molecules known as enzymes, which help all the chemical reactions in our bodies to go according to plan. All protein kinases carry out the same function: they transfer a cluster of atoms, known as a phosphoryl group between different molecules. The movement of a phosphoryl group is similar to the flick of a switch that causes a biochemical pathway go slower or faster.
Kostich and his colleagues searched the publicly available sequence databases to find sequences with similarity to known protein kinase molecules. After removals of duplicates and pseudogenes (genes that are not used), they found 510 sequences that were similar to known protein kinases, of which 60 were previously unidentified. Confident that all 510 sequences coded for protein kinases, they constructed a tree-like diagram known as a phenogram, which maps the relationship between different protein kinases based on the differences in their sequence. This phenogram shows that there are five distinct protein kinase families, a result that is consistent with classification systems based on the functions of different protein kinases.
Gordon Fletcher | BioMed Central
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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