Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers Discover Molecular Gatekeeper in Enzyme

18.02.2009
Researchers from Wageningen University, along with colleagues from the University of Groningen and the University of Pavia (Italy), have unravelled the mechanism that plays a role in the natural production of vitamin C. In this process, a molecular gatekeeper blocks the entrance to the reaction centre of a crucial enzyme.

The article in which the team reports its finding has been declared Paper of the Week by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, an honour given to only one in every hundred articles.

The biological production of vitamin C in plants, fungi and many animals is a complicated process that involves enzymes. A large group of these catalysts need oxygen to function well. In plants, a chemical, cytochrome C, replaces the function of oxygen. Cytochrome C or oxygen ensures that the co-factor flavin in the enzyme's action centre is brought back to its original state after reaction. Because of this restoration, the enzyme is ready for a new reaction.

The research team wondered why the one group of enzymes reacted with oxygen and the other, closely related group did not. How does the oxygen reach the centre of the enzyme, which consists of about 500 hundred linked building blocks (amino acids) of different sizes and forms. This string of building blocks is, as it were, bunched up into a little lump with 'holes, caverns and tunnels' in between. Oxygen has to seep through this little lump or clear a path through the tangle of amino acids in order to penetrate the hidden flavin in the centre.

Imagine, the researchers said, that in some enzymes oxygen can reach the enzyme's centre through tunnels and holes. You should then be able to discover the route using the structure. Unfortunately, there was no crystalline structure of the enzyme in question on hand. There was, however, one other possibility. By laying side by side all of the individual building blocks of the enzymes that react with oxygen and those that do not, the differences should become clear.

Comparing both analyses brought a subtle difference to light. Only one building block, number 113, at the end of a possible route turned out to be a bit different. This difference relates to the amino acid alanine. When alanine was replaced by the smaller building block glycine at that position, it turned out that the enzyme was suddenly oxygen permeable. And not just a little bit. The difference is so large it's as if a dam has burst: a factor of 400.

How is it possible that one building block in a construction of 500 blocks can have so much effect? The researchers support the tunnel theory: the building block alanine has four different protrusions, while glycine has only three. Alanine's extra protrusion, a methyl group, blocks the tunnel and prevents oxygen from penetrating the centre. At this site, alanine works as a gatekeeper and it keeps the door tightly shut.

But, why isn't the gate just simply open? Evidently, having a strict gatekeeper has its advantages. It turns out that the aggressive substance hydrogen peroxide ('domestic bleach') forms in the reaction with oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide accelerates the ageing of cells and a plant, which makes a lot of vitamin C, does not like this.

The way is now open to prepare vitamin C in a natural way. However, the chemical route already exists, is cheap and yields an identical product. The deciphered mechanism is, however, also applicable to similar biochemical reactions, for example, the preparation of vanilla. Additionally, the deciphered process can mean a step forward in synthetic biology in which products that do not occur or hardly occur in nature can be produced in a natural way.

Jac Niessen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.wur.nl
http://www.wur.nl/UK/newsagenda/news/Gatekeeper090216.htm

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>