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

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Solving the specific membrane protein structure is like finding out the exact shape of a lock once that is known, a key that fits the lock and thereby blocks the docking process can be designed, according to Fromme. The discovery of the structure of these key proteins involved in pathogen-human cell interaction will therefore have a huge impact on human health and pave the way for structure-based rationally designed drugs that fight infectious diseases - diseases that kill millions of humans each year worldwide.

Sixty percent of all current drugs are targeted to membrane proteins, yet only three human membrane protein structures are known despite their medical relevance. The centers will develop highly efficient methods for solving the structures of these elusive yet critically important proteins.

"The ASU center is the only one of the new centers focused specifically on membrane proteins from viral and bacterial pathogens," said Ward Smith, Ph.D., PSI director. "By determining these proteins' structures, the center will provide important clues for understanding infectious disease pathways that could point to new ways to treat and prevent infectious diseases."

"A critical step in understanding the complex processes that are catalyzed by membrane proteins is an understanding of their structure, dynamics and function, "said Fromme. Our knowledge of processes catalyzed by membrane proteins suffers greatly from a lack of information concerning their molecular-level structures. While more than 60,000 structures of soluble proteins have been solved only 250 membrane protein structures have been determined to date. The reason why membrane proteins are so intransigent is that they "live" in biological membranes, and so are not soluble in water. This makes them extremely difficult to isolate, purify and, in particular, to crystallize.

"Researchers at the ASU center will target membrane proteins of key viral and ba
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Contact: Jenny Green
jenny.green@asu.edu
480-965-1430
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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