New technique that shows how a protein 'light switch' works may enhance biological research

New technique that shows how a protein 'light switch' works may enhance biological research
This image depicts how the Dronpa light switch can be turned on or off by using different colors of light (at 400 or 450 nm). Credit: Stony Brook University

Sunlight is essential for all life, and living organisms have evolved to sense and respond to light. Dronpa is a protein "light switch" that can be turned on and off by light. A team of scientists led by Peter Tonge, a Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Stony Brook University, has discovered a way to use infrared spectroscopy to determine for the first time structure changes that occur in Dronpa during the transition from the dark (off) state to the light (on) state. Their findings are reported in a paper published early online in Nature Chemistry.

According to Tonge, the technique and their findings will help the researchers understand how this " " works and enable them to redesign Dronpa for applications in biology and medicine.

"A key challenge in understanding how the switch works in Dronpa is to determine how the initial interaction of light—which happens very, very fast – in less than one quadrillionth of a second – changes the dynamics and ultimately turns the switch on in a process that occurs millions of times more slowly.

In our work we used an instrument that can look at the vibrations of Dronpa over many decades of time so that we could visualize the entire activation process in one experiment," he explained.


Explore further

How plants see light

More information: Sergey P. Laptenok et al. Infrared spectroscopy reveals multi-step multi-timescale photoactivation in the photoconvertible protein archetype dronpa, Nature Chemistry (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41557-018-0073-0
Journal information: Nature Chemistry

Citation: New technique that shows how a protein 'light switch' works may enhance biological research (2018, June 15) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-06-technique-protein-biological.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
6 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

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