Navigation Links
Uncharted territory: Scientists sequence the first carbohydrate biopolymer
Date:10/11/2011

Troy, N.Y. DNA and protein sequencing have forever transformed science, medicine, and society. Understanding the structure of these complex biomolecules has revolutionized drug development, medical diagnostics, forensic science, and our understanding of evolution and development. But, one major molecule in the biological triumvirate has remained largely uncharted: carbohydrate biopolymers.

Today, for the first time ever, a team of researchers led by Robert Linhardt of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has announced in the October 9 Advanced Online Publication edition of the journal Nature Chemical Biology the sequence of a complete complex carbohydrate biopolymer. The surprising discovery provides the scientific and medical communities with an important and fundamental new view of these vital biomolecules, which play a role in everything from cell structure and development to disease pathology and blood clotting.

The paper is titled "The proteoglycan bikunin has a defined sequence."

"Carbohydrate biopolymers, known as glycosaminoglycans, appear to be really important in how cells interact in higher organisms and could explain evolutionary differences and how development is driven. We also know that carbohydrate chains respond to disease, injury, and changes in the environment," said Linhardt, who is the Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. '59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering at Rensselaer. "In order to understand how and why this all happens, we first need to know their structure. And today, at least for the simplest glycosaminoglycan structure, we can now do this."

The first glycosaminoglycan sequenced was obtained from bikunin. Bikunin is a proteoglycan, a protein to which a single glycosaminoglycan chain is attached. Unlike less sophisticated carbohydrate biopolymers, such as starch and cellulose, the proteoglycans are decorated with structurally complex carbohydrates that enable them to perform more sophisticated and defined roles in the body. Bikunin, for example, is a natural anti-inflammatory that is used as a drug for the treatment of acute pancreatitis in Japan. It has the simplest chemical structure of any proteoglycan. Linhardt views the discovery of the structure of bikuin as the first step on the ladder to the discovery of the structure of more complex proteoglycans.

"The first genome sequences of DNA were on the simplest organisms such as bacteria. Once the technology was developed it ultimately led to the sequencing of the human genome," he said. "In our efforts to sequence carbohydrate biopolymers we don't yet know if the defined structure we observe for this simple protoglycan will hold for much more complex proteoglycans."

But, looking for structure in more complex proteoglycans will be among the next steps in the research for Linhardt and his team. The search for structure could help put to rest a long-running debate in the scientific community as to whether complex carbohydrate biopolymers require a defined structure to function.

"Despite all that is known about glycan formation, our understanding has not yet been deep enough to infer sequence or even determine if sequence occurs," Linhardt said. "These findings represent a new way of looking at these complex biomolecules as ordered structures."

Linhardt's research into carbohydrate sequencing began 30 years ago. In his previous work, he determined that some order existed in at least a portion of some carbohydrate biopolymers, but it did not represent the entire finished puzzle.

"Previously, we could see a pattern, but we could not see if all the chains were playing the same music. The tools did not yet exist. Now we can recognize it as a symphony."

To uncover the entire structure, Linhardt and his team, which was led by his doctoral student Mellisa Ly, borrowed a technique from the field of protein research called the proteomics top-down approach. As opposed to the bottom-up approach that first breaks apart a complex biopolymer into pieces and then rebuilds it piece by piece like a jigsaw puzzle, the top-down approach used by Linhardt and colleagues allows the researcher to picture the whole intact puzzle. This can only be accomplished with some of the most sophisticated technology available to the scientific community today, including very high-powered mass spectrometers.

Linhardt used a mass spectrometer located in the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) to make his initial discoveries, and had these results independently confirmed on a separate and higher-level spectrometer at the University of Georgia. Mass spectrometers break down a molecule into separate charged particles or ions. These ions can then be categorized and analyzed based on their mass-to-charge ratio. These ratios then allow for sequencing of the entire molecule.

"This was truly the convergence of really sophisticated spectroscopy and its application to biology," Linhardt said. "We were fortunate to have a lot of time to play with the instrument at CBIS to understand its capabilities."

Beyond the technology it also took faith and determination. According to Linhardt, "It takes a student that is willing to try something even when the odds are pretty low. If it doesn't work, you make incremental progress. If it does work, you can make a great discovery. But, from the beginning you need to be a believer that it is worth taking the chance because it takes a lot of hard work in the lab."

And the odds weren't in Linhardt's favor. Despite being the most simple of proteoglycans, there were still 290 billion different possible sequences for the molecule.

"The first sample we looked at, we got the structure," Linhardt said. "In the end we did 15 chains and they all came back playing the same exact symphony."


'/>"/>

Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco
demarg@rpi.edu
518-276-6542
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Jefferson scientists deliver toxic genes to effectively kill pancreatic cancer cells
2. Scientists identify novel inhibitor of human microRNA
3. Argonne scientists peer into heart of compound that may detect chemical, biological weapons
4. MU scientists go green with gold, distribute environmentally friendly nanoparticles
5. Scientists identify gene that may contribute to improved rice yield
6. Scientists discover why a mothers high-fat diet contributes to obesity in her children
7. MU scientists see how HIV matures into an infection
8. Earth scientists keep an eye on Texas
9. Thinking it through: Scientists call for policy to guide biofuels industry toward sustainability
10. Scientists identify a molecule that coordinates the movement of cells
11. Scientists Find new migratory patterns for Mediterranean and Western Atlantic bluefin tuna
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Uncharted territory: Scientists sequence the first carbohydrate biopolymer
(Date:4/11/2017)... -- Research and Markets has announced the addition of ... offering. ... market to grow at a CAGR of 30.37% during the period ... has been prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs ... growth prospects over the coming years. The report also includes a ...
(Date:4/6/2017)... -- Forecasts by Product Type (EAC), Biometrics, ... (Transportation & Logistics, Government & Public Sector, Utilities / ... Facility, Nuclear Power), Industrial, Retail, Business Organisation (BFSI), Hospitality ... looking for a definitive report on the $27.9bn Access ... ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... KEY FINDINGS The global market ... CAGR of 25.76% during the forecast period of 2017-2025. ... for the growth of the stem cell market. ... MARKET INSIGHTS The global stem cell market is segmented ... The stem cell market of the product is segmented ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/27/2017)... , April 27, 2017  Kinexum, a distinguished resource ... today announces the appointment of Thomas C. Seoh ... ("Zan") Fleming, M.D., Kinexum founder, who becomes Executive Chairman ... to Kinexum clients. Thomas Seoh ... the Kinexum mission and lead the firm,s remarkable team ...
(Date:4/26/2017)... Alto, CA, USA (PRWEB) , ... April 26, ... ... popular seminar on FDA’s GMP expectations for phase I clinical trials comes to ... attended by various biotechnology and pharma professionals representing FDA regulated organizations such as ...
(Date:4/26/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... April 26, 2017 , ... ... in EMEA and North America this May on the ... 16-18 , Donald H. Taylor, Chairman of the Learning and Performance Institute will ...
(Date:4/25/2017)... ... April 25, 2017 , ... As part of the Stago EdVantage Virtual ... testing for DIC in order to illuminate this clinical problem for people unfamiliar with ... patients resulting in a high degree of morbidity and mortality. DIC is a confusing ...
Breaking Biology Technology: