Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Living with salt

13.07.2005


Weizmann Institute scientists uncover a strategy that helps a plant-like, microscopic alga to happily proliferate in such inhospitable surroundings; their findings have unexpectedly shed light on the working of our own kidneys



Over the years, a number of Weizmann Institute scientists have addressed the question of how molecules essential to life, such as proteins, have adapted to function in extreme environments. The proteins they investigated were isolated from halophilic (salt-loving) microorganisms from the Dead Sea. After determining the 3-D structures for several halophilic proteins, researchers were able to explain how these proteins not only cope with high salinities, but are actually "addicted" to them. However, the alga Dunaliella salina is an organism of a different streak: it is able to grow in any salinity, from the extremes of the Dead Sea to nearly fresh water. The uniquely salt-tolerant Dunaliella, which is commercially grown as a source of natural beta carotene, has been investigated at the Weizmann Institute for over 30 years. Yet, the secrets of its exceptionally successful adaptation to salt remained unresolved.

In a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (PNAS), Institute scientists Prof. Ada Zamir and Dr. Lakshmanane Premkumar of the Institute’s Biological Chemistry Department and Prof. Joel Sussman and Dr. Harry Greenblatt of the Structural Biology Department revealed the structural basis of a remarkably salt-tolerant Dunaliella enzyme, a carbonic anhydrase, which may hold the key. Comparisons with known carbon anhydrases from animal sources showed that the Dunaliella enzyme shares a basic plan with its distant relatives, but with a few obvious differences. The most striking of these is in the electrical charges on the proteins’ surfaces: Charges on the salt-tolerant enzyme are uniformly negative (though not as intensely negative as those in halophilic proteins), while the surfaces of carbonic anhydrases that don’t tolerate salt sport a negative/positive/ neutral mix. This and other unique structural features may enable the algal carbonic anhydrase to be active in the presence of salt, though not dependent on it. In a surprise twist, the researchers discovered that one other known carbonic anhydrase - found in mouse kidney - sported a similar, salt-tolerant construction. Pondering why a structure conferring salt tolerance should evolve once in a Dead Sea organism and once in a mouse has led the researchers to some new insights into kidney physiology. The researchers hope that the knowledge gleaned from their study of a tiny alga might provide the basis for designing new drugs that could target enzymes based on their salt tolerance.


Prof. Joel Sussman’s research is funded by the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly; the Joseph and Ceil Mazer Center for Structural Biology; the Charles A. Dana Foundation; the Divadol Foundation; the Jean and Jula Goldwurm Memorial Foundation; the late Sally Schnitzer, New York, NY; the Kalman and Ida Wolens Foundation; and the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust. Prof. Joel Sussman is the incumbent of the Morton and Gladys Pickman Chair in Structural Biology.

Alex Smith | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.jgordonassociates.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

nachricht Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>