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'Work environment' affects protein properties
Date:7/3/2014

Under the tutelage of Junior Professor Dr Simon Ebbinghaus, researchers from Bochum have demonstrated that the water surrounding the dissolved substances inside the cell plays a crucial role with regard to protein stability, which has frequently been neglected in the past. The researchers have published the results of their study, gained by means of simple model systems and thermodynamic analyses, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). The results have been obtained following a collaboration under the umbrella of the Excellence Cluster RESOLV. The researchers were, moreover, presented with a Hot Topic Poster Award at this year's Bunsentagung in Hamburg.

Proteins' work environment more viscous than egg white

Proteins are among the most important and most-studied biomolecules in biochemical research. They fulfil structure-relevant tasks and are the cells' molecular machines: catalysing chemical reactions, transporting metabolic products and identifying metabolites. Consequently, deficiencies of protein function often result in severe disorders, e.g. Huntington's and Alzheimer's disease. The proteins' natural work environment inside the cell is a highly crowded solution (more viscous and more highly concentrated than egg white), consisting of various macromolecules as well as small organic and inorganic substances. In order to study protein function using modern analytical methods, researchers often purify proteins in vitro and study them in diluted aqueous solution. However, it often cannot be precisely ascertained to what extent the experimental results reflect the actual function within the cellular environment.

Theory: in narrow spaces, proteins "tuck in their elbows"

A method frequently used for predicting the effect a densely-packed cellular environment has on proteins is the so-called excluded volume theory. It can be best explained using the example of an everyday pheno
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Contact: Dr. Simon Ebbinghaus
simon.ebbinghaus@rub.de
49-234-322-5533
Ruhr-University Bochum
Source:Eurekalert  

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