All cells are encased within a protective lipid membrane. The membrane is studded with many hundreds of different proteins that transport nutrients, ions, and water into and out of the cell. Such membrane proteins also help cells recognize each other in the body, and make the nervous system work. Scientists at Stockholm University have now mapped out nearly all of the membrane proteins in the enteric bacterium Escherichia coli. Their study is published this week in Science magazine.
The team, led by professor Gunnar von Heijne at the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, has used a combination of experimental techniques and theoretical structure prediction methods to produce simple structural models for some 600 membrane proteins from Escherichia coli. They have also identified those membrane proteins that the bacterium can manufacture in large amounts, and those that it has difficulties to make. This information is important for scientists working in, e.g., drug development who often need access to large amounts of purified membrane proteins.
Large-scale projects where scientists from different fields work together are becoming increasingly common in biology. The new study has been made possible through a close collaboration between biochemists at Stockholm University and bioinformaticians at Stockholm Bioinformatics Center.
Prof. Gunnar von Heijne | alfa
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