Research to illuminate inner workings of 'protein nanomachines'

Oct 06, 2006
Research to illuminate inner workings of 'protein nanomachines'
PNNL researchers are developing a new approach for studying the molecular mechanisms of enzymes. They use a three-electrode platform to oxidize and reduce enzymes, then capture chemical reaction data with a single molecule spectroscope.

Development of new instrumentation and methods for studying the molecular mechanisms of enzymes are the goals of a three-year, $1.5 million contract awarded to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory by the Department of Energy's energy biosciences program.

Enzymes—the protein nanomachines of cells—have potential energy applications such as hydrogen production, fuel cell development and environmental remediation. However, to develop these applications, researchers must fill gaps in the fundamental understanding of enzymatic processes. Redox enzymes, those targeted in the new project, are essential to all life forms because they enable reaction cycles of reduction and oxidation through electron transfer within cells.

As a first step, PNNL researchers will couple an electrochemical method called "cyclic voltammetry" with single-molecule spectroscopy into a new electrochemical single-molecule spectrometer, or CVSMS. The new equipment will allow dynamic studies of fundamental enzymatic redox reactions.

Enzymes typically are unstable outside the cell, making them hard to study. In earlier work, the PNNL investigators discovered a way to stabilize enzymes and extend their lifespan by entrapping them into a nano-structured matrix.

The enzymes will be stabilized in the nano-structured matrix and then placed inside a miniature electrochemical cell that will deliver controlled electrical currents. As the tiny jolts of electricity affect catalytic reactions of the enzymes, the researchers will observe the single enzyme molecules in action. Using chemical signatures that the CVSMS generates, they will study the catalytic electron transfer processes.

To obtain the necessary enzyme variants, the research team will use a new cell-free process, rather than traditional cellular methods for protein production. The unique robotic instrument can produce up to 384 proteins or protein variants a day.

"We expect insights gained from this research to provide fundamental knowledge needed to understand the role of electron transfer in catalytic reactions," said principal investigator Eric Ackerman, adding that the research could be useful in a number of directions, including bioenergy and environmental remediation.

The research team also includes co-principal investigators Chenghong Lei, Dehong Hu and Chuck Windisch.

Source: PNNL

Explore further: New cancer-hunting 'nano-robots' to seek and destroy tumours

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New tool identifies therapeutic proteins in a 'snap'

Aug 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —In human and bacterial cells, glycosylation – the chemical process of attaching complex sugar molecules to proteins – is as fundamental as it gets, affecting every biological mechanism from cell signaling ...

Seeds to skyscrapers

Jun 25, 2014

Wood is one of the oldest building materials but its use is limited by its properties. With new funding, researchers aim to stretch these properties to an unprecedented degree, creating the means to build ...

Insights into the geometry of genetic coding

Jun 11, 2014

When proteins are produced in cells based on the "genetic code" of codons, there is a precise process under which molecules called transfer RNA (tRNA) bind to specific amino acids and then transport them to cellular factories ...

Hunting for new genes by sequencing seas samples

Jun 27, 2013

(Phys.org) —Mass DNA sequencing has led to a better knowledge of marine micro-organisms in their environment and helps to discover new genes of interests. However, it is only part of the answer for biotech ...

Power behind primordial soup discovered

Apr 04, 2013

(Phys.org) —Researchers at the University of Leeds may have solved a key puzzle about how objects from space could have kindled life on Earth.

Nano-machines for 'bionic proteins'

Feb 15, 2013

Physicists of the University of Vienna together with researchers from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna developed nano-machines which recreate principal activities of proteins. ...

Recommended for you

Introducing the multi-tasking nanoparticle

Aug 26, 2014

Kit Lam and colleagues from UC Davis and other institutions have created dynamic nanoparticles (NPs) that could provide an arsenal of applications to diagnose and treat cancer. Built on an easy-to-make polymer, these particles ...

Tissue regeneration using anti-inflammatory nanomolecules

Aug 22, 2014

Anyone who has suffered an injury can probably remember the after-effects, including pain, swelling or redness. These are signs that the body is fighting back against the injury. When tissue in the body is damaged, biological ...

Cut flowers last longer with silver nanotechnology

Aug 21, 2014

Once cut and dunked in a vase of water, flowers are susceptible to bacterial growth that shortens the length of time one has to enjoy the blooms. A few silver nanoparticles sprinkled into the water, might be the answer to ...

User comments : 0