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 In their work, the key has been replaced by artificial amino acids.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: Prized sea snail not at risk of extinction, federal officials say

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers discover protein protecting against chlorine

Dec 18, 2014

Chlorine is a common disinfectant that is used to kill bacteria, for example in swimming pools and drinking water supplies. Our immune system also produces chlorine, which causes proteins in bacteria to lose ...

Scientists find key to vitamin A metabolism

Dec 10, 2014

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have uncovered the mechanism that enables the enzyme Lecithin: retinol acyltransferase (LRAT) to store vitamin A—a process that is indispensable ...

Fungus-growing ants selectively cultivate their crops

Dec 10, 2014

Ever since agriculture evolved ca 10.000 years ago, plants have been artificially selected to become the fast growing and highly productive varieties we know today. However, humans were not the first to see ...

Recommended for you

Keep dogs and cats safe during winter

Dec 27, 2014

(HealthDay)—Winter can be tough on dogs and cats, but there are a number of safe and effective ways you can help them get through the cold season, an expert says.

Scientists target mess from Christmas tree needles

Dec 26, 2014

The presents are unwrapped. The children's shrieks of delight are just a memory. Now it's time for another Yuletide tradition: cleaning up the needles that are falling off your Christmas tree.

Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study

Dec 26, 2014

Japan's top research institute on Friday hammered the final nail in the coffin of what was once billed as a ground-breaking stem cell study, dismissing it as flawed and saying the work could have been fabricated.

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.