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NIH funds center at Arizona State to battle infectious diseases
Date:9/29/2010

TEMPE, Ariz. Arizona State University has been awarded a $7.7 million grant for the next five years from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, to unravel the structures of membrane proteins that play a key role in protection against infectious diseases.

As part of the Protein Structure Initiative (PSI:Biology), ASU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be home to one of nine new national centers for structure determination of membrane proteins. The centers are focused on the discovery of the structure and function of membrane proteins.

Membrane proteins catalyze essential life functions, like respiration, photosynthesis, cell communication, import and export out of a cell and they play an essential role in the host-pathogen interaction.

"The impact of this work on human health and the battle against infectious diseases will be huge," explained Petra Fromme , a professor in chemistry and biochemistry and the director of the new ASU Center for Membrane Proteins and Infectious Diseases (MPID).

The cell membrane surrounds and protects the cell's interior like a skin. The membrane proteins, which are embedded in the membrane, in turn guard all transport in and out of the cell.

For example, when a virus enters the body, it docks to membrane proteins at the cell surface and subsequently tricks the cell into allowing the virus inside, like a Trojan horse. Once in the cell, its genetic information is released and the virus reprograms the human enzymes (or complete cell machinery) to produce thousands of new virus particles.

Elucidation of the membrane protein structures involved in docking and cell entry would enable the development of new drugs that specifically block the pathways into the cell. The virus (or the bacterial pathogen) could be "caught" and neutralized before it even starts its destructi
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Contact: Jenny Green
jenny.green@asu.edu
480-965-1430
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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