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Protein synthesis can be controlled by light, opening way for new scientific, medical applications

Proteins are the puzzle-pieces of life, involved in how organisms grow and flourish, but studying their complex biological processes in living systems has been extremely difficult. Now, a team of chemists and neurobiologists led by Timothy Dore at the University of Georgia and Erin M. Schuman at the California Institute of Technology has found a way to use light to regulate protein synthesis in specific locations.

The new method, which uses so-called "caged compounds" that can be turned on with light, could lead to more intricate studies of such important but poorly understood processes, such as protein synthesis in nerve synapses.

The research was published today in the journal Chemistry & Biology. Coauthors on the paper are Schuman, Michael Goard, Girish Aakalu, Carlo Quinonez and Jamii St. Julien, all of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Division of Biology at the California Institute of Technology. Lesya Fedoryak from Dore's lab is also an author of the paper, as is Stephen Poteet, now a medical student at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, who participated in UGA's Chemistry Summer Undergraduate Research Program in 2001.

The idea of "caged compounds" has been around for some 30 years. In the current application, the team attached a light-sensitive molecule called a chromophore to a bioactive molecule called an effector through a single covalent bond that inactivates the bioactive molecule. Exposing the caged compound to light releases the effector in its active form.

"It's analogous to placing an animal in a cage to restrict its activity," said Dore, "but the term 'cage' is really a misnomer because we are not actually placing a molecule inside of a molecule."

The team developed a caged anisomycin compound that can be activated by exposure to ultraviolet light or an infrared laser beam. (Anisomycin is an antibiotic that inhibits protein synthesis.) The new chromophore, called Bhc, is the only one sensitive en
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Source:University of Georgia


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