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 Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State 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: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>