Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists uncover early warning system for copper toxicity

05.09.2003


Findings could influence design of anticancer and antimicrobial drugs

Chemists and biologists at Northwestern University have acquired new insight into how a specialized sensor protein, which acts as an early warning system, detects dangerous amounts of the "coinage metals" -- silver, gold and copper -- inside cells. For the first time, researchers can explain this important mechanism at the atomic level.

The findings, to be published Sept. 5 in the journal Science and recently published online by the Journal of the American Chemical Society, should improve our knowledge of diseases related to copper metabolism and influence the design of anticancer and antimicrobial drugs, and may lead to better methods for removing toxic metals from the environment.



By studying the inorganic chemistry of the bacterium E. coli, a research team led by Thomas V. O’Halloran, professor of chemistry at Northwestern, established the molecular and structural basis for the cell’s early detection of miniscule amounts of copper. The work was done in collaboration with Alfonso Mondragon, professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology at Northwestern, and James E. Penner-Hahn, professor of chemistry at the University of Michigan.

Having determined the structures of copper-, silver- and gold-bound forms of the metalloregulatory protein CueR, the researchers were able to show the protein’s extraordinary sensitivity to copper as well as how the cell distinguishes copper from other metals, such as gold and silver.

"Metals are absolutely essential to the healthy functioning of all cells in the human body," said O’Halloran. "But metals are high-maintenance nutrients. They are finicky and can be particularly destructive if not managed by the cell in the right way. Cells must protect themselves against excess amounts."

O’Halloran likened the cell to a city in which metal ions are similar to important and reactive fuels that must be imported and then carefully delivered from one part of the city to another. Reactive metals such as copper have the potential to catalyze runaway reactions that could harm the cell, much as a series of explosions could damage critical systems in a city. Understanding how a cell properly deals with copper and other potentially toxic metals will aid biomedical researchers in understanding what happens when things go awry in cancer and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Wilson’s, Menkes and Lou Gehrig’s diseases and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.

"Metals are at the center of many emerging problems in health, medicine and the environment," said O’Halloran.


In addition to O’Halloran and Mondragon, other authors on the Science paper are Anita Changela (lead author), Kui Chen, Yi Xue, Jackie Holschen and Caryn Outten, from Northwestern University.

O’Halloran and Penner-Hahn are joined by Kui Chen (lead author), from Northwestern University, and Saodat Yuldasheva, from the University of Michigan, on the paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nwu.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization
06.12.2016 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Speed data for the brain’s navigation system

06.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization

06.12.2016 | Life Sciences

IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>