The world speed record for protein folding apparently goes to an unusually tiny specimen that traces its origins to Gila monster spit.
University of Florida researchers have discovered that the Tryptophan cage protein, derived from the saliva of the Gila monster lizard, zooms to its folded state, above, in four millionths of a second - about four times faster than any protein previously measured. The finding adds to the emerging knowledge about how proteins fold, information that could lead to better drugs and cures for diseases tied to misshapen proteins, such as Alzheimers, Parkinson’s and Mad Cow diseases.
So reports a team of University of Florida researchers in a paper published this week in the online edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Though significant mainly from a purely scientific standpoint, the finding eventually may be important in researchers understanding of the underlying causes behind a host of maladies.
Proteins acquire their three-dimensional, blob-like shapes when the amino acids they are composed of spontaneously fold into place. The process has become a hot topic in science in recent years because the shape of proteins is directly tied to their function in the cells of animals and people. Misshapen proteins, or proteins whose amino acids form an even slightly different configuration than normal proteins, have been connected to Alzheimer’s disease and a range of other serious disorders.
Stephen Hagen | EurekAlert!
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