Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Conserved amino acids play both structural and mechanistic roles in sandwich-like protein


Scientists at Rice University report their findings in PNAS

The question of whether amino acids in sandwich-like proteins are there to stabilize the structure or to speed up the protein-folding process is best answered by "all of the above," according to researchers at Rice University in Houston. This discovery, reported in today’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could benefit future research on treatments for diseases related to misfolded proteins, such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.

The Rice scientists studied azurin – a copper-containing protein essential to electron transfer. Azurin is part of a group of proteins that fold into a sandwich-like structure consisting of two sheets of amino acids meshed together. Nearly 70 superfamilies of proteins of varying makeup have this sandwich-like structure, but they all have eight particular amino acids in common. Previous studies had shown that these eight amino acids were important to define the sandwich-like structure, but the exact role was unknown.

"Why are these eight amino acids invariant across all sandwich-like proteins?" asked principal investigator Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, associate professor of biochemistry and cell biology. "Are they conserved to direct the protein-folding reaction, or are they selected to stabilize the final protein structure? In our paper, we unravel an unprecedented answer to this question."

Wittung-Stafshede and graduate student Corey Wilson analyzed the purpose of six of the eight amino acids by exchanging a nonessential amino acid for each of them and monitoring the effect on the protein structure. (For technical reasons, the other two amino acids could not be studied.) The researchers found that three of the amino acids are important for stabilizing the final structure of the protein, and three serve to direct the process of protein folding.

"We directly demonstrated that in one protein within the large sandwich-like protein family, evolution has indeed preserved amino acids for mechanical reasons," Wittung-Stafshede said. "We believe that our discovery is novel and that it gives important new insight into the interplay between protein evolution, structure and folding."

The researchers speculate that their conclusions about the azurin protein apply to most members of the sandwich-like protein family, but testing on other specific proteins must confirm that.

"Better understanding of protein folding is crucial for curing human diseases directly related to misfolding of proteins, and it is also important for the design and improvement of therapeutic enzymes," Wittung-Stafshede said.

B.J. Almond | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>