Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a new probe that allows them to watch protein activity in living cells. In their initial study, which focused on a protein tentatively linked to the spread of cancerous cells, the team both proved their new technique works and revealed surprising new details about the protein’s activity.
The protein in this study, neuronal Wiskott–Aldrich syndrome protein (N-WASP), is naturally found in every cell in the body and is known to be involved in a wide range of cellular processes. One of its key functions is believed to be guiding cellular growth and movement within the body, including when tumor cells metastasize, or spread, from one organ to another.
“To our knowledge this is the first probe of its kind that allows us to actually see in a living system where, when and how proteins are activated,” says first author Michael E. Ward, a graduate student in anatomy and neurobiology. “This is significant progress in moving from examining the biochemistry of ground up cells to being able to study it in an intact cell.”
Gila Z. Reckess | WUSTL
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Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
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