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Scripps Research scientists crack mystery of protein's dual function
Date:12/13/2009

LA JOLLA, CADecember 10, 2009Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have solved a 10-year-old mystery of how a single protein from an ancient family of enzymes can have two completely distinct roles in the body. In addition to providing guidance for understanding other molecules in the family, the research supplies a theoretical underpinning for the protein's possible use for combating diseases including cancer and macular degeneration.

The research was published in the December 13, 2009 advance, online issue of the high-impact journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

The scientists, led by Scripps Research Associate Professor Xiang-Lei Yang, focused on a molecule called human tryptophanyl-tRNA synthetase (TrpRS), finding that it contains a "functional switch" that enables it to perform two different functions. In one of its forms, the molecule acts to facilitate protein synthesis. In the second form, the same molecule works to inhibit the formation of new blood vesselsan effect that, if successfully harnessed, could be medically useful.

"I'm very excited about these findings," said Yang. "This piece of work provides a very deep mechanistic understanding. It has really shown that the activity of this tRNA synthetase is of biological significance and that it's a good example of the many, many different functions that have been found with the tRNA synthetase family."

One Enzyme, Two Functions

For some time, scientists have known that the aminoacyl tRNA synthetase family is composed of 20 ancient enzymes that attach the correct amino acid to a tRNA as the first step in the synthesis of proteins.

The mystery of the protein family's dual functionality, however, was born about a decade ago, with the publication of a 1999 paper in the journal Science by Paul Schimmel, who is Ernest and Jean Hahn Professor of Molecular Biology and Chemistry and a member of The Skaggs Institute for Chemi
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Contact: Keith McKeown
kmckeown@scripps.edu
858-784-8134
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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