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Several baffling puzzles in protein molecular structure solved with new method
Date:5/1/2011

The structures of many protein molecules remain unsolved even after experts apply an extensive array of approaches. An international collaboration has led to a new, high-performance method that rapidly determined the structure of protein molecules in several cases where previous methods had failed.

The usefulness of the new method is reported May 1 in Nature advanced online publication. The lead authors are Dr. Frank DiMaio of the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle and Dr. Thomas C. Terwilliger of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The senior author is Dr. David Baker, of the UW Department of Biochemistry.

A protein's molecular structure shapes its functions. In biomedical and health research, for example, scientists are interested in the molecular structure of specific proteins for many reasons, a few of which are:

  1. To design drugs that selectively target, at the molecular level, particular biochemical reactions in the body

  2. To understand abnormal human proteins in disease, such as those found in cancer and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's, and how these abnormal proteins cause malfunctions

  3. To learn the shape and function of virus particles and how they act to cause infections

  4. To see how the chains of amino acids, decoded from the DNA in genes, fold and twist into normally or abnormally shaped protein molecules

  5. To design new proteins not found in the natural world, such as enzymes to speed up a slow biochemical reaction

  6. To find ways to replace malfunctioning molecular parts of proteins that are critical to health

  7. To devise nano-scale tools, such as molecular motors

"The important new method described this week in Nature highlights the value of computational modeling in helping scientists to determine the structures and functions of molecules that are difficult to study using curre
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Contact: Leila Gray
leilag@u.washington.edu
206-685-0381
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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