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Cholesterol transporter structure decoded
Date:3/21/2014

This news release is available in German.

The word "cholesterol" is directly linked in most people's minds with high-fat foods, worrying blood test results, and cardiovascular diseases. However, despite its bad reputation, cholesterol is essential to our wellbeing: It stabilizes cell membranes and is a raw material for the production of different hormones in the cell's power plants the mitochondria. Now, for the first time, scientists in Gttingen have solved the high-resolution structure of the molecular transporter TSPO, which introduces cholesterol into mitochondria. This protein also serves as a docking site for diagnostic markers and different drugs, such as Valium. The detailed knowledge of its three-dimensional shape and function opens up new diagnostic and therapeutic perspectives.

Not only are mitochondria the most important energy supplier in living cells. They also produce steroid hormones such as testosterone and oestradiol, which control many processes in the body. The raw material for the production of steroid hormones is cholesterol, which must first be transported into mitochondria across two membranes. This difficult task is carried out by a molecular transport protein named TSPO in the outer mitochondrial membrane. Using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, two teams working with the Gttingen-based scientists Markus Zweckstetter and Stefan Becker have now shown the complex three-dimensional structure of the protein "at work" in atomic detail.

The researchers achieved this methodical breakthrough by applying an ingenious trick: In their experiments, they coupled the transporter to an important diagnostic marker called PK11195; it was this complex that first gave the scientists analyzable results. In fact, the TSPO structure delivers more than
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Contact: Markus Zweckstetter
markus.zweckstetter@dzne.de
49-551-201-2220
DZNE - German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases
Source:Eurekalert

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