The case of the sticky protein

December 18, 2015
Ashutosh Tiwari and his doctoral student Nethaniah Dorh work on misfolded proteins. They collaborated with synthetic chemists and physicists to better understand a BODIPY-based probe to test protein stickiness, a precursor to some neurodegenerative diseases. Credit: Michigan Tech, Sarah Bird

Proteins are like a body's in-house Lego set. These large, complex molecules are made up of building blocks called amino acids. Most of the time, proteins fold correctly, but sometimes they can misfold. This misfolding causes the proteins to get sticky, and that can promote clumping, or aggregation, which is the hallmark of several neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

The protein's stickiness is a result of surface hydrophobic interactions that are important for many biological functions. The problem is that researchers don't have good tools to measure this stickiness with high sensitivity.

Now, an interdisciplinary team at Michigan Technological University has assembled new tools to solve the case of the sticky . Their work on improving hydrophobicity detection will be published in Scientific Reports Friday morning.

Using the fluorescent probes, the team measured hydrophobicity in three proteins: Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA), apomyoglobin and myoglobin. Compared to a commonly used commercial sensor (ANS), these new BODIPY-based hydrophobic sensors showed much stronger signal strengths, with up to a 60-fold increase in BSA.

"This is like going from having one 40-watt light bulb and then having 60 of them in the same room, just imagine the difference in illumination," says Ashutosh Tiwari, an associate professor of chemistry at Michigan Tech and the corresponding author for the study.

The video will load shortly
Nethaniah Dorh is a chemistry PhD student studying misfolded proteins. He helped develop a fluorescent probe to measure protein stickiness, which can lead to aggregation, a hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Credit: Michigan Tech, Sarah Bird

Explore further: Researchers shed light on protein-related diseases

More information: Scientific Reports, dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep18337

Related Stories

Similarities cause protein misfolding

May 31, 2011

A large number of illnesses stem from misfolded proteins, molecules composed of amino acids. Researchers at the University of Zurich have now studied protein misfolding using a special spectroscopic technique. Misfolding, ...

Recommended for you

How Venus flytraps trigger digestion

April 21, 2017

The Venus flytrap digests its prey using enzymes produced by special glands. For the first time, a research team has measured and meticulously analysed the glands' activity.

0 comments

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.