Using some of the most powerful nuclear magnetic resonance equipment available, researchers at the University of California, Davis, are making discoveries about the shape and structure of biological molecules -- potentially leading to new ways to treat or prevent diseases such as breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
The findings appear in the latest issues of the journals Nature and Journal of Biological Chemistry
"These are exquisite three-dimensional objects, and the structures really give insight into how they function in the cell," chemistry professor James Ames said.
Two recently published studies show what the campus can do with its 800-megahertz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, acquired with grant support from the National Science Foundation.
In a paper published online Jan. 29 by the journal Nature, Ames and colleagues at the University of Toronto and the University of Cambridge, England, offer insight into the hot topic of calcium channels, linked to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, among other things.
The researchers described the workings of two protein channels that are similar in structure and function. Inositol triphosphate is the "key" that unlocks the inositol triphosphate receptor, opening a gateway that releases calcium inside the cell. The ryanodine receptor does the same thing when it binds another molecule, ryanodine.
The new three-dimensional view shows that although the sequences of these proteins are different, their structures at the "receptor end" are very similar.
"They are basically superimposable," Ames said. They are also interchangeable if the "receptor end" of one is grafted to the "calcium channel end" of the other, the receptor still functions.
Researchers hope that understanding how inositol triphosphate triggers calcium flows, and how that process might be boosted or blocked, will lead to new ways to treat neurodege
|Contact: Andy Fell|
University of California - Davis