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Membrane complexes take flight
Date:6/12/2008

Against currently held dogma, scientists at the Universities of Cambridge and Bristol have revealed that the interactions within membrane complexes can be maintained intact in the vacuum of a mass spectrometer. Their research is published in this week's edition of Science Express.

The researchers were surprised to discover that membrane complexes could remain associated as it has always been assumed that they would not survive once transferred to the alien conditions inside the mass spectrometer.

"Even if interactions between proteins within the membrane could be maintained we would not have expected them to remain associated with proteins in the cell's interior," says Carol Robinson, Principal Investigator and Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Cambridge's Department of Chemistry.

Cellular membranes surround cells and provide the ultimate in cellular security; nothing can get into a cell without the say so of membrane proteins the worker molecules that reside in the membrane wall and provide tightly regulated entry points. This natural home of membrane proteins excludes water, yet methods available to study proteins at high resolution revolve round aqueous environments. The ability to "fly" intact membrane proteins in a mass spectrometer paves the way for weighing the proteins and identifying the molecular partners they work with in nature.

The new research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, will enable scientists to investigate membrane complexes with from a variety of sources and with a range of small molecules. Since about 60% of all drug targets are membrane proteins this is a significant discovery.

Ever since Professor Robinson first flew soluble protein complexes in a mass spectrometer in 1996, she has wanted to do the same with membrane complexes. Collaborating with a membrane biochemistry group in Bristol, led by Professor Paula Booth, she
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Contact: Genevieve Maul
genevieve.maul@admin.cam.ac.uk
44-012-233-32300
University of Cambridge
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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