Yuan-Ping Pang, Ph.D., a chemist and expert in computer-aided molecular design at Mayo Clinic, identified two unique amino acid residues called cysteine (286) and arginine (339). These exist in three mosquito species and the German cockroach.
Dr. Pang’s findings are significant because the residues could potentially be used as a target site for a pesticide that would incapacitate only insects that carry these residues, which do not exist in mammals. The findings appear in the current issue of PLoS ONE, a new, peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science.
“These findings suggest that new pesticides can be designed to target only the mosquito enzyme. Such pesticides could be used in small quantities to harm mosquitoes, but not mammals,” Dr. Pang says. “We’ve developed a blueprint for a pesticide that could i ncapacitate malaria-carrying mosquitoes. We are currently making a prototype of the new pesticide.”
Most pesticides today work by crippling the serine residue, which is another amino acid of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase and is located at the active site of the enzyme. This serine residue is present in both insects and mammals and therefore, any pesticide targeting this amino acid affects both insects and mammals.
Acetylcholinesterase is a vital enzyme to both insects and mammals. It breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is a primary neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with memory and cognition.
Dr. Pang, director of Mayo Clinic’s Computer-Aided Molecular Design Laboratory, studied the genetic makeup of all known acetylcholinesterases in 73 species, including humans. He identified residues that only exist in the mosquito version of the acetylcholinesterase. To identify which of these residues is susc eptible to pesticides, he developed a three-dimensional model of mosquito acetylcholinesterase. With this three-dimensional model in hand, Dr. Pang learned how residues function in a way never before possible.
He found that the cysteine and arginine residues were located at the opening of the active site of the mosquito acetylcholinesterase. An active site is a pocket in an enzyme where a fast chemical reaction takes place to break down a molecule or build a new molecule.
Previous studies by Dr. Pang and researchers elsewhere found that the cysteine residue acts as a hook that could tether a small molecule in the active site of an enzyme and permanently damage the enzyme. This led Dr. Pang to believe the cysteine and arginine residues could be targeted by a pesticide that would not affect humans and other mammals.
“While a three-dimensional model of the mosquito enzyme acetylcholinesterase has been reported by other scientists, no mosqu ito-specific residue at the active site of acetylcholinesterase has been reported until now,” Dr. Pang says. “These findings suggest that a chemically stable molecule (to be used as a safer pesticide) could be made to react with the cysteine residue in the mosquito enzyme acetylcholinesterase and irreversibly inhibit the enzyme.”
The three-dimensional model Dr. Pang developed was created with a powerful computing system called a terascale system. He built the system with 590 personal computers. Terascale refers to computational power measured in the unit of teraflops, which is a processor capable of a speed of one trillion floating-point operations per second. A single teraflops computer is comparable to a computer that can search at least 50,000 Manhattan phonebooks in one second. Terascale systems are among the most powerful computers available today.
Dr. Pang published similar findings in October 2006 in which he described a potenti ally safer and more effective method for controlling crop-destroying aphids. The study was published in the journal Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters.
Complementing conventional antibiotics
24.05.2018 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)
23.05.2018 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
24.05.2018 | Health and Medicine
24.05.2018 | Life Sciences