Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Synthetic enzymes could help ID proteins

29.04.2010
'Smart' catalysts programmed to recognize specific molecular shape

Using a rare metal that's not utilized by nature, Rice University chemists have created a synthetic enzyme that could help unlock the identities of thousands of difficult-to-study proteins, including many that play key roles in cancer and other diseases.

The research was published online this week in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

"We have combined the chemical capabilities of rhodium with what biology already knows about recognizing and selecting specific proteins," said study co-author Zachary Ball, assistant professor of chemistry at Rice. "The result is a tool that, in many ways, is more powerful than any biological or chemical approach alone."

Ball began studying dirhodium catalysts more than three years ago. He did not start out trying to create enzymes with them, but he was intrigued by a study that showed dirhodium catalysts could be used to modify tryptophan, one of the 21 amino acids that are the basic building blocks of life.

Catalysts enhance chemical reactions by increasing the rate of reaction without being consumed themselves. In living things, proteins called enzymes serve the same purpose. But unlike many inorganic catalysts, enzymes are very selective. In a process that biologists often liken to a "lock and key," enzymes associate only with molecules that match their shape exactly. This prevents them from spurring extraneous reactions throughout the cell.

Ball and postdoctoral research associate Brian Popp wondered if they could marry the selectivity of enzymatic reactions with a rhodium-based catalyst. They tested the idea by attaching their catalyst to a short segment of protein that can wrap with other proteins, like strands of rope fiber. This "coiled coil" wrapping motif is common in biology, particularly in signaling proteins. Signaling proteins are those that activate or deactivate key processes like apoptosis, the "programmed death" response that's known to play a key role in cancer.

"Signaling pathways are like a trail of dominos," Ball said. "Dozens of proteins can be involved, and they interact one after the other in a cascade. In most cases, the interactions are both fleeting and weak. They are difficult to observe with traditional methods, and as a result we are still in the dark about the roles that key signaling proteins play in health and disease."

Ball said his and Popp's synthetic enzyme strategy might help solve that problem. In their tests, the chemists were able to develop synthetic enzymes that could selectively bind with proteins and attach tags that would allow biologists to identify them.

In addition to tryptophan, the method worked with phenylalanine and tyrosine, two amino acids commonly found in signaling proteins. And recent unpublished studies indicate the researchers' strategy might work for even more amino acids.

Ball said the process must be refined before it can be used in the majority of biology labs, but he and Popp are already working toward realizing broad applications of the strategy.

The research was funded by the Welch Foundation and Rice University.

Jade Boyd | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rice.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Closing in on advanced prostate cancer
13.12.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

nachricht Visualizing single molecules in whole cells with a new spin
13.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>