Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Dance of the molecules

06.01.2004


New method tracking single atoms may lead to improved drug design



Until now, scientists studying the workings of ultra-microscopic forms have had to rely on the scientific equivalents of still photos, something like trying to fathom driving by looking at a photograph of a car. Now, Prof. Irit Sagi and her team of the Structural Biology Department are using new and innovative methods developed at the Weizmann Institute to see real-time "video clips" of enzyme molecules at work. The resolution of these animated clips is so fine that the scientists are able to see the movements of individual atoms within the molecule.

The challenge facing the Weizmann team was to capture, step-by-step, the complex process -- the whole of which takes place in a tiny fraction of a second -- that an enzyme molecule goes through as it performs its work. Their pioneering method was published in Nature Structural Biology. It was hailed as the first of its kind, and a potentially important tool for biophysicists.


To obtain the "live action" footage, Sagi and her team use a technique akin to stop-action photography, but on an infinitely smaller scale. They literally freeze the process at certain stages, using advanced methods of chemical analysis to determine the exact molecular layout at each stage. The most difficult part, says Sagi, was figuring out the correct time frames that would allow them to see each phase of enzyme activity clearly. She compares it to attempting to capture on film the swirling of syrup being mixed into cake batter – one has to gauge at what points individual stages of the process will be most visible.

Building an animated sequence from individual frames, the scientists are granted a rare peek into the intricate dance of life on the molecular level. "This method," says Sagi, "represents more than a major breakthrough in the techniques used to understand enzyme activity. It changes the whole paradigm of drug formulation. Now we can precisely identify which parts of the molecule are the active regions (those which directly perform tasks), and the exact permutations of these molecular segments throughout the whole process. New, synthetic drugs can be designed to target specific actions or critical configurations."

Sagi’s team is doing just that for one enzyme family known to play a role in cancer metastasis. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), assist the cancer cells’ escape and entry into new tissues by breaking down the structural proteins that keep cells in place, a skill normally needed to clear out tissue in preparation for growth or repair. Using the knowledge gained by the new technique, the team designed a molecule to block MMPs at one crucial step in their dance.

Prof. Irit Sagi’s research is supported by the Avron-Wilstaetter Minerva Center; the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly; the Ceil and Joseph Mazer Center for Structural Biology; the Jakubskind-Cymerman Prize; the Laub Fund for Oncogene Research; Prof. Clotilde Pontecorvo, Italy; and Verband der Chemischen Industrie.

Alex Smith | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.weizmann.ac.il/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New yeast species discovered in Braunschweig, Germany
13.12.2019 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

nachricht Saliva test shows promise for earlier and easier detection of mouth and throat cancer
13.12.2019 | Elsevier

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Virus multiplication in 3D

Vaccinia viruses serve as a vaccine against human smallpox and as the basis of new cancer therapies. Two studies now provide fascinating insights into their unusual propagation strategy at the atomic level.

For viruses to multiply, they usually need the support of the cells they infect. In many cases, only in their host’s nucleus can they find the machines,...

Im Focus: Cheers! Maxwell's electromagnetism extended to smaller scales

More than one hundred and fifty years have passed since the publication of James Clerk Maxwell's "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field" (1865). What would our lives be without this publication?

It is difficult to imagine, as this treatise revolutionized our fundamental understanding of electric fields, magnetic fields, and light. The twenty original...

Im Focus: Highly charged ion paves the way towards new physics

In a joint experimental and theoretical work performed at the Heidelberg Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, an international team of physicists detected for the first time an orbital crossing in the highly charged ion Pr⁹⁺. Optical spectra were recorded employing an electron beam ion trap and analysed with the aid of atomic structure calculations. A proposed nHz-wide transition has been identified and its energy was determined with high precision. Theory predicts a very high sensitivity to new physics and extremely low susceptibility to external perturbations for this “clock line” making it a unique candidate for proposed precision studies.

Laser spectroscopy of neutral atoms and singly charged ions has reached astonishing precision by merit of a chain of technological advances during the past...

Im Focus: Ultrafast stimulated emission microscopy of single nanocrystals in Science

The ability to investigate the dynamics of single particle at the nano-scale and femtosecond level remained an unfathomed dream for years. It was not until the dawn of the 21st century that nanotechnology and femtoscience gradually merged together and the first ultrafast microscopy of individual quantum dots (QDs) and molecules was accomplished.

Ultrafast microscopy studies entirely rely on detecting nanoparticles or single molecules with luminescence techniques, which require efficient emitters to...

Im Focus: How to induce magnetism in graphene

Graphene, a two-dimensional structure made of carbon, is a material with excellent mechanical, electronic and optical properties. However, it did not seem suitable for magnetic applications. Together with international partners, Empa researchers have now succeeded in synthesizing a unique nanographene predicted in the 1970s, which conclusively demonstrates that carbon in very specific forms has magnetic properties that could permit future spintronic applications. The results have just been published in the renowned journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Depending on the shape and orientation of their edges, graphene nanostructures (also known as nanographenes) can have very different properties – for example,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

The Future of Work

03.12.2019 | Event News

First International Conference on Agrophotovoltaics in August 2020

15.11.2019 | Event News

Laser Symposium on Electromobility in Aachen: trends for the mobility revolution

15.11.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supporting structures of wind turbines contribute to wind farm blockage effect

13.12.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Chinese team makes nanoscopy breakthrough

13.12.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Tiny quantum sensors watch materials transform under pressure

13.12.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>