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Scientists find protein-building enzymes have metamorphosed & evolved new functions
Date:7/17/2014

LA JOLLA, CA AND JUPITER, FLScientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and their collaborators have found that ancient enzymes, known for their fundamental role in translating genetic information into proteins, evolved myriad other functions in humans. The surprising discovery highlights an intriguing oddity of protein evolution as well as a potentially valuable new class of therapeutic proteins and therapeutic targets.

"These new protein variants represent a previously unrecognized layer of biologythe ramifications of this discovery are now unfolding," said team leader Paul Schimmel, Ernest and Jean Hahn Professor of Molecular Biology and Chemistry at TSRI (California and Florida) who also holds an appointment at HKUST Jockey Club Institute for Advanced Study (IAS).

Mingjie Zhang, IAS Senior Fellow and Kerry Holdings Professor of Science, Division of Life Science at HKUST, added, "This breakthrough finding not only uncovers a vast area of new biology, but also provides opportunities to develop protein-based drugs for various human diseases associated with malfunctions of these newly discovered proteins. The successful collaboration among scientists from HKUST, TSRI and two biotech companies from the U.S. and Hong Kong also serves as a wonderful example of the close connections between basic research and biotechnology development."

The findings appear in the July 18, 2014 issue of Science.

Greater Complexity

The discovery concerns aminoacyl tRNA synthetases (AARSs), a group of 20 enzymes whose most basic function is to connect the nucleotide codes contained in genes to their corresponding protein building-blocks, namely, the 20 amino acids. Because AARSs are essential for the translation of genetic information into working proteins, they are found in all life forms on the planet.

Scientists have been finding evidence in recent
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Contact: Mika Ono
mikaono@scripps.edu
858-784-2052
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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