It has been speculated that lead poisoning may have played a role in the fall of the Roman Empire: it is thought to have been caused by the concentration of grape juice in lead containers.
Though the introduction of lead-free gasoline has reduced damage to the environment, the annual production of lead continues to increase worldwide because lead is still used in batteries, glass, and electronic components. However, there has thus far been little research into what, at a molecular level, causes the toxic effects of lead. French researchers have now applied quantum chemistry to very simple enzyme models and gained new insights. As they have reported in Angewandte Chemie, it seems that the lead¡¯s ¡°electron shield¡± is the main culprit.
Lead does the most damage to the nervous system, kidneys, liver, brain, and blood. These kinds of damage are especially severe for children as they can be irreversible. Complexation agents that grab onto the metal cations are used as antidotes. However, these agents are not lead-specific, meaning that they also remove other important metal cations from the body.
C. Gourlaouen and O. Parisel (Laboratoire de Chimie Th¨¦orique, Universit¨¦ Paris 6) took a closer look at two proteins to which lead likes to bind. Calmodulin, a calcium-binding protein, plays an important role in regulating and transporting the calcium cation in the human body. A calcium ion binds to seven ligands at the active centers of the enzyme. If one of the four possible calcium ions of calmodulin is replaced by lead, the lead ion remains roughly heptacoordinated, but this active center becomes distorted and inefficient; the three remaining sites get a reduced efficiency.
¦Ä-Aminolevulinic acid dehydratase is essential for the biosynthesis of hemoglobin. Inhibition of this enzyme disrupts the formation of blood to the point of anemia. At the active center, a zinc ion binds to four ligands, three of which involve a sulfur atom. When lead replaces zinc, it only binds to the three sulfur atoms. The reason for this is the emerging free electron pair of the lead cation. It acts as an electronic shield on one side, pushing away the fourth ligand. Such a dramatic geometrical distortion at the active center could explain why lead inhibits this enzyme.
The different behavior of lead in these two enzymes demonstrates that it can enter into complexes in which the metal¨Cligand bonds can either point in all directions, or into only one hemisphere, while the other hemisphere is filled by the free electron pair. This observation may help in the design of future lead-specific antidotes.
Author: Olivier Parisel, Universit¨¦ Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris VI (France), http://www.lct.jussieu.fr/rubrique13.html
Title: Is an Electronic Shield at the Molecular Origin of Lead Poisoning? A Computational Modeling Experiment
Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2007, 46, No. 4, 553¨C556, doi: 10.1002/anie.200603037
First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife
Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
26.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
26.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences