First-ever determination of protein structure with X-ray laser

Mar 14, 2013 by Anne M Stark
The atomic-scale structure of the enzyme tied to the single-celled parasite responsible for African sleeping sickness.

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, including LLNL physicist Matthias Frank and postdoc Mark Hunter, have for the first time used an ultra-intense X-ray laser to determine the previously unknown atomic-scale structure of a protein.

The work was reported in the online edition of Science, which also featured the story as a News Flash. The team determined the structure of an enzyme key to the survival of the single-celled parasite Trypanosoma brucei, responsible for , a disease that kills 30,000 people each year.

This new structural information should help guide the search for drugs that act like the propeptide, tying up the enzyme and killing the parasite. To determine the structure of the precursor form of the protein—which does not form crystals large enough for traditional X-ray diffraction—submicron nanocrystals produced by the parasite were analyzed by the "diffraction before destruction" technique, in which individual nanocrystals are passed, one by one, through the X-ray beam at the , followed by "stacking"of the resultant —in this case, from 178,875 individual nanocrystals.

The achievement also demonstrates that the approach can provide otherwise unobtainable biomolecular information, potentially ushering in a new era of .

The research also was recognized as one of the "Top 10 2012 Science Breakthroughs of the Year" in Science Magazine. See the story.

Explore further: And so they beat on, flagella against the cantilever

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

X-ray laser research ranks in Science magazine's top 10

Dec 24, 2012

(Phys.org)—Research at SLAC's powerful X-ray laser that could lead to the development of specialized drugs to better combat African sleeping sickness has been recognized by Science magazine as one of the ...

Fastest X-ray images of tiny biological crystals

Jan 05, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- An international research team headed by DESY scientists from the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg, Germany, has recorded the shortest X-ray exposure of a protein crystal ...

Recommended for you

And so they beat on, flagella against the cantilever

Sep 16, 2014

A team of researchers at Boston University and Stanford University School of Medicine has developed a new model to study the motion patterns of bacteria in real time and to determine how these motions relate ...

Tandem microwave destroys hazmat, disinfects

Sep 16, 2014

Dangerous materials can be destroyed, bacteria spores can be disinfected, and information can be collected that reveals the country of origin of radiological isotopes - all of this due to a commercial microwave ...

Cornell theorists continue the search for supersymmetry

Sep 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —It was a breakthrough with profound implications for the world as we know it: the Higgs boson, the elementary particle that gives all other particles their mass, discovered at the Large Hadron ...

User comments : 0