Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

RUB-Researchers decipher interaction of fragrances and olfactory receptors

13.12.2011
Angewandte Chemie: three-dimensional structure and hydrogen bridge pattern explained

Banana, mango or apricot - telling these smells apart is no problem for the human nose. How the olfactory organ distinguishes such similar smells has been uncovered by an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the RUB. The scientists were the first to shed light on the dynamics of the three-dimensional structure of the binding site of an olfactory receptor.

In so doing, they also found a characteristic pattern of hydrogen bonds between odorant and receptor, which accounts for the specificity of the olfactory sensors. Using computer simulations, the RUB team was able to predict whether odorant molecules activate a certain receptor or not. “A dream of science and industry is coming true” says smell expert Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. Hanns Hatt (Department of Cell Physiology). The study was chosen as cover story of the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Computer model and living cells

The human nose has about 350 different types of olfactory receptors, each specialising in one or a few smells. “The receptor is like a door lock which can only be opened by the right key” says Dr. Lian Gelis from the Department of Cell Physiology. How the lock is exactly constructed was previously unknown. To solve the puzzle, Dr. Steffen Wolf and Prof. Dr. Klaus Gerwert (Department of Biophysics) set out by creating a computer model of the human olfactory receptor for the smell of apricots. In the model, they mutated several components (amino acids) in the binding site of the protein and predicted whether these receptor variants bind apricot fragrance or not. Gelis und Hatt then verified these predictions using “Ca2+-imaging” on the receptors in the physiological system.

Tango of the molecules

In this way, the researchers showed how the binding site has to be structurally constituted so that the apricot fragrance activates the receptor. Using molecular dynamics simulations, they then analysed the two binding partners in greater depth. They found that, in the dynamic interplay of the interaction between receptor and odorant molecule, specific chemical bonds, called hydrogen bridges, form and separate. “It’s like a tango, where the female dancer constantly separates from her partner and joins him again at another point” explains Gerwert. “The receptor uses the dynamic hydrogen bonding pattern to distinguish between activating and non-activating odours."

Predictions for other olfactory receptors

The researchers established how many molecular junctions the interaction partners have to form in order for a smell to activate an olfactory receptor. They also managed to specifically manipulate a receptor protein in the model and in the experiment so that it detected papaya fragrance instead of apricot fragrance. “The findings can help to generate specific ‘super-olfactory sensors’ for a defined fragrance” says Hatt. “Since olfactory receptors not only occur in the nose, but also in many other tissues in the human body, for example in the prostate, in sperm, and in the intestines, the results may help to develop novel therapeutic approaches”. The work was carried out as part of the Collaborative Research Centre SFB 642. The Mercator Foundation supported Prof. Gerwert with a grant.

Bibliographic record

L. Gelis, S. Wolf, H. Hatt, E.M. Neuhaus, K. Gerwert (2011): Prediction of a ligand-binding niche within a human olfactory receptor by combining site-directed mutagenesis with dynamic homology modelling, Angewandte Chemie, International Edition, doi: 10.1002/ange.201103980

Further information

Prof. Dr. Klaus Gerwert, Department of Biophysics, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology at the Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, tel.: +49/234/32-24461

gerwert@bph.ruhr-uni-bochum.de

Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. Hanns Hatt, Department of Cell Physiology, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology at the Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, tel.: +49/234/32-24586

Hanns.Hatt@ruhr-uni-bochum.de

Click for more

Early View Articles in “Angewandte Chemie”
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)1521-3773/earlyview
Department of Cell Physiology
http://www.cphys.rub.de/index.htm
Department of Biophysics
http://www.bph.rub.de/
Editor
Dr. Julia Weiler

Dr. Josef König | idw
Further information:
http://www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nanocages in the lab and in the computer: how DNA-based dendrimers transport nanoparticles
19.10.2018 | University of Vienna

nachricht Less animal experiments on the horizon: Multi-organ chip awarded
19.10.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Werkstoff- und Strahltechnik IWS

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Goodbye, silicon? On the way to new electronic materials with metal-organic networks

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.

Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...

Im Focus: Storage & Transport of highly volatile Gases made safer & cheaper by the use of “Kinetic Trapping"

Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles

Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...

Im Focus: Disrupting crystalline order to restore superfluidity

When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.

We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...

Im Focus: Micro energy harvesters for the Internet of Things

Fraunhofer IWS Dresden scientists print electronic layers with polymer ink

Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...

Im Focus: Dynamik einzelner Proteine

Neue Messmethode erlaubt es Forschenden, die Bewegung von Molekülen lange und genau zu verfolgen

Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Conference to pave the way for new therapies

17.10.2018 | Event News

Berlin5GWeek: Private industrial networks and temporary 5G connectivity islands

16.10.2018 | Event News

5th International Conference on Cellular Materials (CellMAT), Scientific Programme online

02.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nanocages in the lab and in the computer: how DNA-based dendrimers transport nanoparticles

19.10.2018 | Life Sciences

Thin films from Braunschweig on the way to Mercury

19.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

App-App-Hooray! - Innovative Kits for AR Applications

19.10.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>