Proteins are chains of amino acids that, when folded into certain structural patterns and also when unfolded, exert functions within cells. Proteins receive signals that are transmitted from one to the next and that are essential for life. However, within a given protein, are there "highways" along which the signals travel, like a in a relay event? That is to say, how is the information transmitted in a given protein? "This is one of the key questions in biophysics," says Xavier Salvatella, ICREA Professor at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and head of the Molecular Biophysics Lab.
The most recent study in this field published today in Nature Communications, in collaboration with Modesto Orozco, an expert in biocomputational simulations who also works at IRB Barcelona, shows that the transmission of information over large distances occurs within proteins. This transmission has been observed and demonstrated for all proteins containing beta sheets, one of two structural patterns that folded proteins adopt.
"We are discovering the information transmission pathways inside proteins and this concept, which we have validated for one kind of protein structural motif, allows us to speculate that proteins have many valid surfaces on which a drug can act," relates Salvatella.
The team of scientists have discovered how the motions of various parts of proteins, although physically far apart, are correlated. "The same thing happens to proteins as happens to the choreography of ballet dancers, where the movements of the participants are interconnected in spite of being physically apart. If the first one lifts an arm, the last one lifts an arm too," describes the researcher.
A gold mine for drug discovery
Drugs act on a certain site or active domain of a target protein in a given disease. In most infectious diseases and in cancer, one of the problems is that the site where the drug interacts
|Contact: Sònia Armengou|
Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)