Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Weizmann Institute scientists develop a general 'control switch' for protein activity

20.06.2007
The method may be used in biomedical research, and in the future could be used in gene therapy and in genetic engineering of plants

Our bodies could not maintain their existence without thousands of proteins performing myriad vital tasks within cells. Since malfunctioning proteins can cause disease, the study of protein structure and function can lead to the development of drugs and treatments for numerous disorders. For example, the discovery of insulin’s role in diabetes paved the way for the development of a treatment based on insulin injections. Yet, despite enormous research efforts led by scientists worldwide, the cellular function of numerous proteins is still unknown. To reveal this function, scientists perform various genetic manipulations to increase or, conversely, decrease the production of a certain protein, but existing manipulations of this sort are complicated and do not fully meet the researchers’ needs.

Prof. Mordechai “Moti” Liscovitch and graduate student Oran Erster of the Weizmann Institute’s Biological Regulation Department, together with Dr. Miri Eisenstein of Chemical Research Support, have recently developed a unique “switch” that can control the activity of any protein, raising it several-fold or stopping it almost completely. The method provides researchers with a simple and effective tool for exploring the function of unknown proteins, and in the future the new technique may find many additional uses.

The switch has a genetic component and a chemical component: Using genetic engineering, the scientists insert a short segment of amino acids into the amino acid sequence making up the protein. This segment is capable of binding strongly and selectively to a particular chemical drug, which affects the activity level of the engineered protein by increasing or reducing it. When the drug is no longer applied, or when it is removed from the system, the protein returns to its natural activity level.

As reported recently in the journal Nature Methods, the first stage of the method consists of preparing a set of genetically engineered proteins (called a “library” in scientific language) with the amino acid segment inserted in different places. In the second stage, the engineered proteins are screened to identify the ones that respond to the drug in a desired manner. The researchers have discovered that in some of the engineered proteins the drug increased the activity level, while in others this activity was reduced. Says Prof. Liscovitch: “We were surprised by the effectiveness of the method – it turns out that a small set of engineered proteins is needed to find the ones that respond to the drug. With their greater resources, biotechnology companies will be able to create much larger sets of engineered proteins in order to find one that best meets their needs.”

The method developed by the Weizmann Institute scientists is ready for immediate use, both in basic biomedical research and in the pharmaceutical industry, in the search for proteins that can serve as targets for new drugs. Beyond offering a potent tool that can be applied to any protein, the method has an important advantage compared with other techniques: It allows the total and precise control over the activity of an engineered protein. Such activity can be brought to a desired level or returned to its natural level, at specific locations in the body and at specific times – all this by giving exact and well-timed doses of the same simple drug.

In addition, the method could be used one day in gene therapy. It may be possible to replace damaged proteins that cause severe diseases with genetically engineered proteins, and to control these proteins’ activity levels in a precise manner by giving appropriate doses of the drug. Another potential future application is in agricultural genetic engineering. The method might make it possible, for example, to create genetically engineered plants in which the precise timing of fruit ripening would be controlled using a substance that increases the activity of proteins responsible for ripening. Moreover, numerous proteins are used in industrial processes, as biological sensors and in other applications. The possibility of controlling these applications – strengthening or slowing the rate of protein activity in an immediate and reversible manner – can be of great value.

Jennifer Manning | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.acwis.org

Further reports about: Control activity level amino acid engineered

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Progress in Super-Resolution Microscopy
17.12.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Communication between neural networks
17.12.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

When a fish becomes fluid

17.12.2018 | Studies and Analyses

Progress in Super-Resolution Microscopy

17.12.2018 | Life Sciences

How electric heating could save CO2 emissions

17.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>