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 'Lipid asymmetry' plays key role in activating immune cells
20.02.2018 | Biophysical Society

nachricht New printing technique uses cells and molecules to recreate biological structures
20.02.2018 | Queen Mary University of London

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

'Lipid asymmetry' plays key role in activating immune cells

20.02.2018 | Life Sciences

MRI technique differentiates benign breast lesions from malignancies

20.02.2018 | Medical Engineering

Major discovery in controlling quantum states of single atoms

20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>