Its kind of a black art really more than a science, Lawrence said. You cant always predict the kind of witchs brew that needs to be around to get it to crystallize.
He said only a handful of labs in the country are crystallizing iron transport proteins like Steap3, a fact that places MSU on the same shelf as places like Harvard Medical School.
Once crystallized, the samples are shot with a powerful X-ray beam. Electrons in the sample diffract the X-rays, creating patterns on a digital sensor. The technique, called X-ray crystallography, has been used since the 1950s to de-termine the structure of different substances.
In their basement lab in the campuss New Chemistry Building, Lawrence and Sendamarai then examined the diffraction patterns created by Steap3.
Its kind of like a contour map, Sendamarai said. Whenever we see the peaks, we know there are atoms.
Working backward, they can mathematically determine the position of atoms in the protein and display them in three dimensions.
The computer-drawn result, a three-dimensional image that resembles tangled ribbons and strings, is an picture of what the atoms of Steap3 look like.
Sendamarai said having that picture, which depicts all the nooks and crannies on the proteins surface, could allow drug companies to design drugs to fit those spots like puzzle pieces.
If a future drug fits those nooks just right, it could help treat hemochroma-tosis. From there, Sendamarai said it would be conceivable to work backward and possibly treat iron deficiencies or anemia.
Lawrence said that Steap3 is only one in a family of proteins that affect iron transport. This summer, in addition to continuing to study Steap3, Lawrence and Sendamarai hope to learn whether the lab will rec
|Contact: Michael Becker|
Montana State University