Proteins accelerate certain chemical reactions in cells by several orders of magnitude. The molecular mechanism by which the Ras protein accelerates the cleavage of the molecule GTP and thus slows cell growth is described by biophysicists at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum led by Prof. Dr. Klaus Gerwert in the Online Early Edition of the journal PNAS.
Using a combination of infrared spectroscopy and computer simulations, they showed that Ras puts a phosphate chain under tension to such an extent that a phosphate group can very easily detach - the brake for cell growth. Mutated Ras is involved in tumour formation, because this reaction slows down and the brake for cell growth fails. "Our findings could help to develop small molecules that restore the Ras proteins to the right speed", says Prof. Gerwert. "Such molecules would then be interesting for molecular cancer therapy."
On/off: the Ras code
The Ras protein switches the cell growth off by detaching a phosphate group from the small bound guanosine triphosphate, GTP for short. GTP has three interlinked phosphate groups. If it is present in water, the third phosphate group can split off spontaneously - even without the help of the protein Ras. This process is very slow though. Ras accelerates the splitting by a magnitude of five, a second protein, called GAP, by a further magnitude of five. What causes this acceleration has now been found out by the Bochum team.
How Ras spans the phosphate chain
Ras brings the chain of three phosphate groups at the GTP into a certain shape. It turns the third and second phosphate group to each other so that the chain is tensioned. "Like winding up a spring in a toy car by turning a screw", explains Prof. Gerwert. "Ras is the screw, the phosphate groups form the spring." The protein GAP tensions the spring further by also turning the first phosphate group against the second. In this way, the GTP gets into such a high-energy state that the third phosphate group can easily detach from the chain - like when the toy car drives off spontaneously after winding up the spring.
Infrared spectroscopy: high resolution, but only to be interpreted indirectly
The results were obtained by the Bochum researchers using the time-resolved fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) developed at the Institute of Biophysics. With this technique, the scientists track reactions and interactions of proteins with high spatial and temporal resolution; much more precisely than using a microscope. "However, the spectroscopy does not deliver such nice pictures as a microscope, but only very complex infrared spectra", explains PD Dr. Carsten Kötting. "Like a secret code that has to be deciphered."
Quantum chemical simulations
To this end, Till Rudack simulated the protein responses on modern computing clusters and calculated the corresponding infrared spectra. Due to the enormous computational effort, large molecules such as a complete protein cannot currently be reliably described using these so-called quantum mechanical simulations. Therefore, the researchers limited their analysis to GTP and the part of the Ras or GAP protein that interacts directly with GTP. They described the rest of the proteins with a less elaborate molecular dynamics simulation. "When bringing together all the different simulations, it is easy to be led astray", says Till Rudack. "Therefore you have to check the quality of the results by comparing the simulated with the measured infrared spectra." If the spectra obtained with both techniques match, the structure of proteins can be determined to an accuracy of a millionth of a micrometre. This was the case in the Bochum study.
Potential uses for cancer therapy
Molecular cancer therapy is already used successfully with diseases such as chronic myeloid leukaemia (CLM) in the form of the drug Gleevec. Molecules with a similar effect against the mutated Ras protein have not yet been found. "Since we are now able to investigate the reactions of the Ras protein with significantly better resolution, new hope is forming that it will be possible to defuse the mutated molecule using drugs such as Gleevec and restore the rhythm of the cell" says Gerwert.
T. Rudack, F. Xia, J. Schlitter, C. Kötting, K. Gerwert (2012): Ras and GTPase-activating protein (GAP) drive GTP into a precatalytic state as revealed by combining FTIR and biomolecular simulations, PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1204333109
A figure related to this press release can be found online at: http://aktuell.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/pm2012/pm00293.html.en
Prof. Dr. Klaus Gerwert, Department of Biophysics, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology at the Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, Germany, Tel. +49/234/32-24461 email@example.com
Till Rudack, Department of Biophysics, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology at the Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, Germany, Tel. +49/234/32-28363 firstname.lastname@example.org
Click for more
Department of Biophysics http://www.bph.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/index_en.htm
Freely available article http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/08/27/1204333109.abstract
Editor: Dr. Julia Weiler
Prof. Dr. Klaus Gerwert | EurekAlert!
World’s Largest Study on Allergic Rhinitis Reveals new Risk Genes
17.07.2018 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Plant mothers talk to their embryos via the hormone auxin
17.07.2018 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
17.07.2018 | Information Technology
17.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering