Chemists at UC San Diego have developed a method that for the first time provides scientists the ability to attach chemical probes onto proteins and subsequently remove them in a repeatable cycle.
Their achievement, detailed in a paper that appears online this week in the journal Nature Methods, will allow researchers to better understand the biochemistry of naturally formed proteins in order to create better antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, biofuels, food crops and other natural products. It will also provide scientists with a new laboratory tool they can use to purify and track proteins in living cells.
The development was the culmination of a 10 year effort by researchers in the laboratory of Michael Burkart, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, to establish a method to both attach a chemical probe at a specific location on a protein and selectively remove it. This flexibility allows researchers to study the protein with many different functional attachments, providing versatility akin to a biochemical Swiss Army knife. The great advantage of this technique is the broad flexibility of the attachments, which can be dyes, purification agents or mimics of natural metabolic products. Each of these attachments can be used for different purposes and biological studies.
Burkart's goal in his own laboratory is to understand more about the biochemical pathways of fatty acid metabolism and the biosynthesis of other natural products. One project focuses on engineering algae in order to produce improved biofuels. In this effort, the scientists hope to maximize the production of high quality algae oils, which could be used to supplement or supplant existing fossil fuels.
"In fatty acid metabolism, the fatty acids grow from an arm that eventually curls around and starts interacting with the metabolic protein," said Burkart, who is also associate director of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, or SD-CAB, a consortium of institutions i
|Contact: Kim McDonald|
University of California - San Diego