Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists get first look at how water 'lubricates' proteins

16.11.2007
Scientists are one step closer to understanding how proteins move when they perform functions essential for supporting life.

For the first time, scientists have directly observed how water lubricates the movements of protein molecules to enable different functions to happen.

In a paper published in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ohio State University researchers report using ultra-fast light pulses to reveal how water molecules link up with proteins and enable them to move and function.

The finding could one day help researchers find new treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cataracts, cystic fibrosis, and diabetes.

... more about:
»Protein »Water »function »water molecules

Proteins are complex molecules that form the main support structure for plant and animal cells, and they also regulate biochemical reactions. The shape and movements of a protein molecule determine its function, and scientists have long known that proteins can't function unless they are immersed in water.

“Protein-water interactions are a central, long-standing, unsolved problem in protein science,” said Dongping Zhong, associate professor of physics at Ohio State and leader of the study. “We believe that we are making a major step to answer these fundamental questions, and the final results will be very important for many biological applications.”

For instance, scientists could better understand how proteins fold and mis-fold -- a key to understanding certain diseases. They could also design more effective drug molecules that link up with proteins in just the right way.

Molecules move fast, shape-shifting in mere fractions of a second, so the movements are hard to see.

This study marks the first time scientists have been able to map the movements of water molecules at different sites on a much larger protein molecule, and see how those movements influence the form and function of the protein.

Zhong and his team took laser “snapshots” of a single myoglobin protein -- the protein that carries oxygen inside muscle tissue -- immersed in water in the laboratory. They were able to measure how fast the water molecules were moving around the protein, and see how those movements related to characteristics of the protein at that moment -- the electrical charge at a particular site, for instance, or changes in the protein's shape.

Proteins can execute a movement in a few billionths of a second. Water normally moves a thousand times faster -- on the scale of a trillionth of a second. In previous work, the Ohio State researchers showed that water molecules slow down substantially as they gets close to a protein.

This new study shows that the water molecules slow even more once they reach the protein. The water forms a very thin layer -- only three molecules thick -- around the protein, and this layer is key to maintaining the protein's structure and flexibility, lubricating its movements.

Their findings challenge the conventional wisdom of theorists who try to envision what is happening on these tiny scales. Because they can't directly see what's happening, scientists use simulations to fill the gap.

The simulation software has improved in recent years, Zhong said. But for two years his team has compared simulations to actual experiments, and found that the two don't match up.

“We are pretty confident at this point that the simulations need to change,” Zhong said. “Our experimental data provide a benchmark for testing and improving them.”

In the future, Zhong's team will study how water affects proteins interacting with each other, and with DNA.

“Our ultimate goal is to understand why water is so unique and important to life,” he said.

Zhong's coauthors on the paper included Luyuan Zhang, Lijuan Wang, Ya-Ting Kao, Weihong Qiu, Yi Yang, and Oghaghare Okobiah, all of Ohio State . This work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Packard Foundation Fellowship, and the Petroleum Research Fund.

Dongping Zhong | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

Further reports about: Protein Water function water molecules

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ambush in a petri dish
24.11.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

nachricht Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon
23.11.2017 | Norwegian University of Science and Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision

High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons

The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

IceCube experiment finds Earth can block high-energy particles from nuclear reactions

24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 'half-hearted' solution to one-sided heart failure

24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heidelberg Researchers Study Unique Underwater Stalactites

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>