Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Significant findings about protein architecture may aid in drug design, generation of nanomaterials

12.04.2010
Researchers in Singapore report major step forward in effort to understand and engineer protein structure

Researchers in Singapore are reporting this week that they have gleaned key insights into the architecture of a protein that controls iron levels in almost all organisms. Their study culminated in one of the first successful attempts to take apart a complex biological nanostructure and isolate the rules that govern its natural formation.

The Nanyang Technological University team's work on the protein ferritin, the results of which appear in this week's issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, is expected to have significant ramifications on the fields of drug design and nanomaterials.

"Engineering the structure of a protein is one of the ultimate dreams of structural biologists," wrote one of the journal's peer reviewers, "and approaching that dream is greatly enabled through studies aimed at finding out what governs the nanoarchitecture of the protein."

Brendan P. Orner, the assistant professor who oversaw the team's work, described the protein ferritin as a potential model for explaining complicated protein structure in general.

Across the biological kingdoms, ferritin regulates the distribution of iron, which is necessary for a number of cellular functions but also forms reactive ions that can be lethal to cells. Shaped like a spherical nanocage, ferritin is made up of 24 proteins, and it sequesters the reactive iron ions in its hollow interior. In humans, ferritin prevents iron deficiency and overload.

"The rules that govern self-assembling nanosystems, like the ferritin model, are poorly understood," Orner explained. "We systematically analyzed the interactions between the 24 ferritin units that make up the nanocage and identified the hot spots that are crucial to the cage's formation."

Their goal was to discover which amino acids are responsible for assembling the cage, and they found that it is possible to both disassemble ferritin by removing single side chains of amino acids and, surprisingly, to stabilize the structure by removing other side chains.

Understanding the assembly of the nanocage could open the door to drug design that will disrupt the structure and function of defective proteins that cause or contribute to disease. It also may aid in the creation of biological nanostructures in which scientists can grow special particles and materials with a variety of properties and applications.

"Cell biology provides many structures that are on the nanoscale and have amazing complexity and symmetry," Orner said. "The problem is that many of these structures are, like ferritin, self-assembled proteins, and, if we are going to use them for nanomaterials applications, we need to understand the fundamentals that make them form this way naturally."

Orner and his team members are particularly interested in growing nanoparticles of precise dimensions inside ferritin shells. Already, they have developed a new method to grow gold nanoparticles in them.

"Slight deviations in size or shape can radically change nanoparticles' properties, particularly in the case of metals and semiconductors," Orner said. "Our ferritin proteins are hollow, so, when we grow mineral or metal clusters inside them, the growth stops when the nanoparticles reach the limits of the protein shell."

By studying the rules that control the folding and assembly of such a protein in nature, Orner said, the investigators hope to be able to manipulate them one day to create new proteins with novel sizes and shapes and, therefore, generate nanoparticles of novel sizes and shapes inside them.

"Those nanoparticles could be used for in-vitro assays to do high-throughput drug screening of some protein-protein interactions involved in virus infection and cancer, for example," he said.

Orner's team included doctoral students Yu Zhang and Rongli Fan, undergraduate students Siti Raudah, Huihian Teo and Gwenda Teo, and scholar Xioming Sun. Their research was funded by the Singapore Ministry of Education and Nanyang Technological University.

Their resulting article has been named a "Paper of the Week" by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, putting it in the top 1 percent of papers reviewed by the editorial board in terms of significance and overall importance.

About the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

The ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 12,000 members worldwide. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in various government laboratories, at nonprofit research institutions and in industry. The Society's student members attend undergraduate or graduate institutions.

Angela Hopp | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asbmb.org

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 >>>