PASADENA, Calif.The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $11.5 million to a consortium of research institutions led by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the creation of a center for the study of membrane-protein structures.
The centercalled the Center for the X-ray Structure Determination of Human Transportersis one of nine new membrane-protein centers established by the NIH to "solve the structures of these elusive yet very medically relevant proteins," says Ward Smith, director of the NIH's Protein Structure Initiative (PSI), which is supporting the Caltech-led center. "This center brings together a powerhouse of investigators who, working in collaboration, will shed new light on the basic biology of these important membrane proteins and their potential role in treating disease."
"All cells are surrounded by membranes," says Doug Rees, the Roscoe Gilkey Dickinson Professor of Chemistry at Caltech and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, who has been named principal investigator for the new center. "The cell membrane serves as a permeability barrier that regulates the flow of matter, information, and energy between the inside of the cell and the external environment. Transporters are specialized membrane proteins that mediate the passage of virtually every molecule in and out of cells."
These membrane proteins are "really important, biologically," he adds. "Twenty-five percent of all proteins encoded in the human genome are membrane proteins, and over half of all drugs work on membrane proteins. Transporters are vital to the biology of all cells, and a variety of diseases occur when these processes are disrupted, as in several genetic disorders or the up-regulation of multidrug resistance transporters by tumor cells."
Specifically, Rees and his new center will be focusing on membrane transporter proteins; scientists have identified 521 of these specialty proteins in humans. The te
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California Institute of Technology