Research aids drug design; sheds light on plague and other diseases
A new technique for engineering protein crystals is helping scientists figure out the three-dimensional structures of some important biological molecules, including a key plague protein whose structure has eluded researchers until now. The technique, developed with support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), promises to help pharmaceutical companies develop more effective drugs to treat various diseases by tailor-making molecules to "fit" a proteins shape.
Featured in the cover article of the April 2004 issue of Structure, University of Virginia School of Medicine researcher Zygmunt Derewenda, Ph.D., describes how his group was able to coax certain proteins to crystallize by carefully altering their surfaces using "targeted mutagenesis." In effect, the technique substitutes a small amino acid for certain large ones. This effectively shrinks bulky groups of atoms on protein surfaces that might otherwise prevent the proteins from crystallizing.
Dan Hogan | EurekAlert!
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