Research breakthrough for the protein factories of tomorrow

Sep 22, 2006

Using a kind of molecular ‘hip joint operation,’ researchers at Uppsala University have succeeded in replacing a natural amino acid in a protein with an artificial one. This step forward opens the possibility of creating proteins with entirely new properties that can be tailored to biotechnological applications. The study is presented in the latest issue of the prestigious journal Chemistry and Biology.

All proteins are made out of twenty amino acids. These natural building blocks determine the structure and function of the protein. Bengt Mannervik’s research team at Uppsala University has now demonstrated that artificial amino acids can be exchanged for a natural one that is critical to the stability and catalytic properties of the protein. The study opens the possibility of a new chemical biology where entirely new properties can be custom made for biotechnological applications.

Their research work has focused on an important enzyme, glutation transferase, which participates in the detoxification of the body from carcinogenic substances. The enzyme is made up of two identical protein structures that are joined by a contact similar to a key that fits a lock. The key is an amino acid that fits a cavity in the neighboring protein structure. In their work, the key has been replaced by artificial amino acids. Some exchanges yielded a fully active enzyme, while others did not.

The current study is a molecular equivalent to a hip joint operation, where the natural joint is replaced by an artificial part that is more robust. With the same methodology it is also possible not only to replace natural structures and functions but also to give proteins entirely new properties. Using simple chemistry, the twenty existent amino acids can be exchanged for hundreds of new chemical structures. In this way new proteins can be created with building blocks far beyond the limits of the genetic code.

Source: Uppsala Universitet

Explore further: Researchers identify molecules that help cells to pinpoint their position

Related Stories

Claims about the decline of the West are 'exaggerated'

5 hours ago

A new paper by Oxford researchers argues that some countries in Western Europe, and the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand now have birth rates that are now relatively close to replacement, that the underlying trend in ...

Norway tests out 'animal rights cops'

6 hours ago

Norwegian police is creating a unit to investigate cruelty to animals, the government said Monday, arguing that those who hurt animals often harm people too.

Recommended for you

Norway tests out 'animal rights cops'

9 hours ago

Norwegian police is creating a unit to investigate cruelty to animals, the government said Monday, arguing that those who hurt animals often harm people too.

High-pitched sounds cause seizures in old cats

11 hours ago

When the charity International Cat Care asked veterinary neurologists at Davies Veterinary Specialists, UK, for help with several enquiries it had received regarding cats having seizures, seemingly in response ...

Rare dune plants thrive on disturbance

11 hours ago

Beginning in the 1880s, coastal dunes in the United States were planted with European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) in an attempt to hold the sand in place and prevent it from migrating. The grass did th ...

How an RNA gene silences a whole chromosome

13 hours ago

Researchers at Caltech have discovered how an abundant class of RNA genes, called long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs, pronounced link RNAs) can regulate key genes. By studying an important lncRNA, called Xist, ...

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.