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Artificial cells, simple model for complex structure
Date:2/14/2009

macromolecular crowding of cytoplasm, which happens because very large molecules, like proteins, are all competing for the same space. Macromolecules have long chains of atoms, sometimes branching and within their structures remains a lot of empty space. When faced with another large molecule, these macromolecules cannot occupy the same area and so they draw inward, filling some of the empty space and making themselves smaller.

Compacted macromolecules act differently than uncompacted molecules. The rates of reaction of crowded macromolecules can differ dramatically from those of the same molecules in unlimited space. These artificial cells with artificial cytoplasm may allow researchers to study the effects of macromolecular crowding in a controlled way.

The researchers are also looking at the effects of polarization and other types of compounds on these heterogeneous cells.

"One of the things we are looking into is how ions behave in the model cells," said Keating. "We want to take advantage of the effect common ions like potassium and magnesium can have on protein and nucleic acid structures and function."

These polymer containing primitive artificial cells may offer a very simple experimental system for investigating what goes on in the much more complex environment of biological cells.


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Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer
aem1@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

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