Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Unexpected flexibility found in odorant molecules

27.06.2016

High resolution rotational spectroscopy reveals an unprecedented number of conformations of an odorant molecule – a new world record!

In a recent publication in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science and from the Hamburg Centre for Ultrafast Imaging (CUI) led by Melanie Schnell have unraveled the complex conformational landscape of an odorant biomolecule.


Structure of the most stable globular form of citronellal.

© S. R. Domingos / MPI for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter

The science of the scent is shrouded in mystery. How our body interprets odor is still a subject of active debate worldwide. We do know however, that the functionality of a specific biomolecule is directly related to how the molecule “fits” in its target biological receptor, much like a key that only fits in a certain door lock. Many biochemical processes are governed by this so-called lock-and-key mechanism. The size, shape and flexibility of the key are what defines how good it binds to its target, i.e., can it or can it not open the right door?

To shed some light on these mechanisms, the researchers performed a high-resolution rotational spectroscopy study using citronellal, a versatile biochemical precursor that naturally appears in many plant oils. It has a distinct lemon scent and is often exploited in the cosmetics industry.

The researchers discovered that this molecule can adopt an impressive number of shapes simply by rotation around five single carbon-carbon chemical bonds. Those orchestrated rotations result in an extraordinarily large number of stable forms of the molecule.

A total of fifteen forms have been identified. “We show evidence that this incredibly flexible system has a preference for globular shapes, i.e., it likes to fold on itself,” says Sérgio Domingos, first author of this work. “This observation allowed us to derive important information concerning the possible interactions of this molecule with its biological receptors.”

The number of conformations (keys) observed for this molecule constitutes a world record for the microwave spectroscopy community. “The extraordinary shape-shifting ability of this odorant molecule provides particular insights on the relation between structure and function of a biomolecule. Not only we found fifteen keys, but we also know which ones might fit better in the door lock,” concludes group leader Melanie Schnell.

Contact persons:

Dr. Sérgio Domingos
Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter
Center for Free-Electron Laser Science
Luruper Chaussee 149
22761 Hamburg
Germany
+49 (0)40 8998-6233
sergio.domingos@mpsd.mpg.de

PD Dr. Melanie Schnell
Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter
Center for Free-Electron Laser Science
Luruper Chaussee 149
22761 Hamburg
Germany
+49 (0)40 8998-6240
melanie.schnell@mpsd.mpg.de

Original publication:

S. R. Domingos, C. Pérez, C. Medcraft, P. Pinacho, and M. Schnell, "Flexibility unleashed in acyclic monoterpenes: conformational space of citronellal revealed by broadband rotational spectroscopy," Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 18 (25), 16682-16689 (2016); DOI: 10.1039/C6CP02876D

Weitere Informationen:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/C6CP02876D Original publication
http://www.mpsd.mpg.de/en/research/irg/ccm Research group of PD Dr. Melanie Schnell
http://www.mpsd.mpg.de/en Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter

Dr. Michael Grefe | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

Further reports about: Laser Max-Planck-Institut biomolecule odorant spectroscopy

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht To proliferate or not to proliferate
21.03.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für molekulare Zellbiologie und Genetik

nachricht Discovery of a Primordial Metabolism in Microbes
21.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

To proliferate or not to proliferate

21.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Magnetic micro-boats

21.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Motorless pumps and self-regulating valves made from ultrathin film

21.03.2019 | HANNOVER MESSE

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>