Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Molecular machine may lead to new drugs to combat human diseases

21.02.2005


The crystallized form of a molecular machine that can cut and paste genetic material is revealing possible new paths for treating diseases such as some forms of cancer and opportunistic infections that plague HIV patients.



Purdue University researchers froze one of these molecular machines, which are chemical complexes known as a Group I intron, at mid-point in its work cycle. When frozen, crystallized introns reveal their structure and the sites at which they bind with various molecules to cause biochemical reactions. Scientists can use this knowledge to manipulate the intron to splice out malfunctioning genes, said Barbara Golden, associate professor of biochemistry. Normal genes then can take over without actually changing the genetic code.

The results of the Purdue study are published in the January issue of the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. "In terms of human health, Group I introns are interesting because they cause their own removal and also splice the ends of the surrounding RNA together, forming a functional gene," Golden said. "We can design introns and re-engineer them so they will do this to RNA in which we’re interested."


Once thought of as genetic junk, introns are bits of DNA that can activate their own removal from RNA, which translates DNA’s directions for gene behavior. Introns then splice the RNA back together. Scientists are just learning whether many DNA sequences previously believed to have no function actually may play specialized roles in cell behavior.

While humans have introns, they don’t have Group I introns. Many pathogens that cause human diseases, however, do have Group I introns, including the HIV opportunistic infections pneumocystis, a form of pneumonia, and thrush, an infection of tissues in the oral cavity. This makes introns a potential target for therapeutics against these diseases by using a strategy called targeted trans-splicing in which introns are manipulated to cut out malfunctioning genes.

Introns’ unique capability of cutting and pasting apparently has been conserved since life evolved. "It’s thought that RNA, or a molecule related to RNA, possibly were the first biomolecules, because they are capable of both performing work and carrying around their own genetic code," Golden said.

She and her research team used an intron from a bacteriophage, a molecule that attacks bacteria, to obtain an intron crystal structure trapped in the middle of the cutting and pasting cycle. As introns proceed through their work cycle, they change shape by folding and bending. By crystallizing the complex at various stages, the scientists can determine and study its three-dimensional structure and learn how it is able to carry out its biochemical work.

The Group I intron at its work cycle’s mid-point, which Golden crystallized, is unreactive but reveals many of the interactions between the RNA and the molecules that it activates, she said. "Knowing the structure can help us engineer molecules to behave better," Golden said. "It’s very hard to find targets in cells because cells are organized in ways we still don’t fully understand. This crystal structure shows us where the best targets are for modifying genetic defects."

The crystal structure of this Group I intron also will allow scientists to form models of hundreds of other introns in the same family and provide possibilities for new treatments for a wide variety of diseases, she said. Other scientists now will use the information gleaned from this study in an attempt to develop new drugs, Golden said. Introns were unknown until the late 1970s, and scientists are still investigating their function. Crystallization of the complex is one tool to determine their purpose.

Two intron structures in different stages of the cycle have been crystallized previously, and the targeted trans-splicing technique has been used to repair hemoglobin infected with sickle cell anemia. The new structure provides scientists with tools to expand on ways to harness this molecular machine, Golden said.

The other researchers on this study were Hajeong Kim, graduate student, and Elaine Chase, research associate, both of the Purdue Department of Biochemistry. Golden also is a scientist in the Purdue Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute designated research facility.

Grants from NASA, the Pew Scholars Program in Biomedical Sciences and the Purdue Cancer Center provided funding for this research.

Barbara Golden | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New application for acoustics helps estimate marine life populations
16.01.2018 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht Unexpected environmental source of methane discovered
16.01.2018 | University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | 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

 
Latest News

Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk

17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials

17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Fraunhofer HHI receives AIS Technology Innovation Award 2018 for 3D Human Body Reconstruction

17.01.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>