Researchers uncover structure of new protein implicated in diabetes

Apr 05, 2013 by Jared Sagoff
Researchers uncover structure of new protein implicated in diabetes
A look at the structure of the HNF-4A protein, which plays a critical role by binding to specific DNA sequences and regulating the production of a number of key proteins for normal cellular processes.

(Phys.org) —Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, in collaboration with researchers from the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in Orlando, Fla., recently determined and analyzed the three-dimensional structure of a protein found in the nuclei of liver and pancreatic cells. The protein, called hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α (HNF-4α), plays a critical role by binding to specific DNA sequences and regulating the production of a number of key proteins for normal cellular processes. Some of its mutations have been linked to maturity-onset diabetes, kidney failure and metabolic syndrome.

Structural biologist Youngchang Kim of Argonne's Structural Biology Center (SBC) used the high-intensity synchrotron X-rays provided by the laboratory's Advanced Photon Source (APS) to investigate the three-dimensional structure of this nuclear receptor protein in the multi-component complex.

The researchers discovered that some of the most common mutations that cause this diabetes are the ones interfering with DNA binding, and they occur in domains associated with the receptor's ability to bind different molecules. To make this discovery, they needed to rely on X-ray obtained at the SBC beamline at the APS, which creates some of the most brilliant X-rays in the world.

While a cure for this diabetes is likely many years off, studies of the basic cellular and molecular mechanisms adopted by diseases to ravage the body are the first step to producing new therapies.

"The goal of structural biology is to work from the ground up – enhancing our understanding of the most intricate processes will, we hope, one day lead to much better answers to the problem of diabetes," Kim said.     

Explore further: Scientists find clues to cancer drug failure

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Getting to know bacteria with 'multiple personalities'

Jul 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, have been the subject of decades of debate over exactly how they should be classified. While they reproduce and share DNA with their bacterial cousins, ...

Research reveals structure and behavior of collagen

Feb 26, 2008

The structure and behavior of one of the most common proteins in our bodies has been resolved at a level of detail never before seen, thanks to new research performed at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at the U.S. Department ...

Scientists uncover new DNA role in modifying gene function

Apr 10, 2011

For years, scientists have thought of DNA as a passive blueprint capable only of producing specific proteins through RNA transcription. Now, research led by scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute ...

Recommended for you

What causes the sunlight flavour in milk?

8 hours ago

Most of us have tasted milk that has been left in the sun – it has a distinctive off-flavour. The reason is that milk and other dairy products turn rancid when exposed to light.

Scientists find clues to cancer drug failure

Mar 02, 2015

Cancer patients fear the possibility that one day their cells might start rendering many different chemotherapy regimens ineffective. This phenomenon, called multidrug resistance, leads to tumors that defy ...

Smart crystallization

Mar 02, 2015

A novel nucleating agent that builds on the concept of molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) could allow crystallographers access to proteins and other biological macromolecules that are usually reluctant ...

Supersonic electrons could produce future solar fuel

Mar 02, 2015

Researchers from institutions including Lund University have taken a step closer to producing solar fuel using artificial photosynthesis. In a new study, they have successfully tracked the electrons' rapid transit through ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.