Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New computer simulation helps explain folding in important cellular protein

03.08.2009
Most parts of living organisms come packaged with ribbons. The ribbons are proteins—chains of amino acids that must fold into three-dimensional structures to work properly. But when for any reason the ribbons fold incorrectly, bad things can happen, and in humans misfolded-protein disorders include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Scientists have for the past three decades tried to understand what makes proteins fold into functional units and why it happens, and several breakthroughs have occurred through computer modeling—a field that dramatically increases analytical speed.

Now, scientists at the University of Georgia have created a two-step computer simulation (using an important process called the Wang-Landau algorithm) that sheds light on how a crucial protein—glycophorin A—becomes an active part of living cells. The new use of Wang-Landau could lead to a better understanding of the controlling mechanisms behind protein folding.

“Our goal is to present the methodology in a clear, self-consistent way, accessible to any scientist with knowledge of Monte Carlo simulations,” said David Landau, distinguished research professor of physics at the University of Georgia and director of the Center for Simulational Physics.

The research was just published in The Journal of Chemical Physics. Authors of the paper are Clare Gervais and Thomas Wüst, formerly of UGA and now employed in Switzerland; Landau, and Ying Xu, Regents-Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and professor of bioinformatics and computational biology, also at UGA. The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Landau and Xu are in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“This work demonstrates the power and potential of combining expertise from computational physics and computational biology in solving challenging biological problems,” said Xu.

Monte Carlo simulations—the use of algorithms with repeated random samplings to produce reliable predictions—have been around for some decades but have been steadily refined. These simulations are useful for extremely complex problems with multiple variables, and though they often require considerable computer “brain power,” they are able to give scientists startlingly accurate predictions of how biological processes work.

In the current paper, the research team developed a two-step Monte Carlo procedure to investigate, for glycophorin A (GpA), an important biochemical process called dimerization. (A dimer in biology or chemistry consists of two structurally similar units that are held together by intra- or intermolecular forces.)

“One particularly promising approach is to investigate the thermodynamics of protein folding through examining the energy landscape,” Landau explained. “By doing this, we can learn about the characteristics of proteins including possible folding pathways and folding intermediates. Thus, it allows us to bridge the gap between statistical and experimental results.”

Unfortunately, so much is happening physically and biochemically as proteins fold into their functional shapes (called the native state) that the problems must be broken down one by one and studied. That led the team to a question: Could they use a Monte Carlo Simulation along with the Wang-Landau algorithm to discover an efficient simulation method capable of sampling the energy density states that allow such folding?

Perhaps remarkably, they did. The first step in studying the dimerization process was to estimate those states in GpA using Wang-Landau. The second step was to sample various energy and structural “observables” of the system to provide insights into the thermodynamics of the entire system.

The results could be broadly applied to many fields of protein-folding studies that are important to understanding—and treating—certain diseases. (Wang-Landau, named for David Landau and Fugao Wang, is a Monte Carlo algorithm that has proved to be useful in studying a variety of physical systems. Wang was a doctoral student at UGA and now works for the Intel Corp.)

GpA is a 131-amino acid protein that spans the human red-blood cell membrane and is crucial in cell procedures. Because it has been studied in depth for many years, it also serves as an important model system for how similar systems work. That’s why the new simulation may open doors in many other areas of inquiry.

“The main advantage of this two-step approach lies in its flexibility as well as its generality,” said Landau. “This method is widely applicable to any study of biological systems, such as the folding process of soluble proteins, polymers, DNA or protein complexes. Therefore, it is an excellent alternative to other simulation methods used traditionally in the field of protein-folding thermodynamics.”

In the current study, the team discovered something generally important about membrane proteins in general, too. They found that unlike some proteins for which folding is mainly governed by their attraction to or repulsion by water, the process in GpA is driven by a subtle interplay between multiple types of interactions.

David Landau | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uga.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Mars 2020 mission to use smart methods to seek signs of past life
17.08.2017 | Goldschmidt Conference

nachricht Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors
17.08.2017 | American Institute of Physics

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter

17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences

Mars 2020 mission to use smart methods to seek signs of past life

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>