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Scientists get first look at how water 'lubricates' proteins
Date:11/14/2007

COLUMBUS , Ohio -- Scientists are one step closer to understanding how proteins move when they perform functions essential for supporting life.

For the first time, scientists have directly observed how water lubricates the movements of protein molecules to enable different functions to happen.

In a paper published in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ohio State University researchers report using ultra-fast light pulses to reveal how water molecules link up with proteins and enable them to move and function.

The finding could one day help researchers find new treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cataracts, cystic fibrosis, and diabetes.

Proteins are complex molecules that form the main support structure for plant and animal cells, and they also regulate biochemical reactions. The shape and movements of a protein molecule determine its function, and scientists have long known that proteins can't function unless they are immersed in water.

Protein-water interactions are a central, long-standing, unsolved problem in protein science, said Dongping Zhong, associate professor of physics at Ohio State and leader of the study. We believe that we are making a major step to answer these fundamental questions, and the final results will be very important for many biological applications.

For instance, scientists could better understand how proteins fold and mis-fold -- a key to understanding certain diseases. They could also design more effective drug molecules that link up with proteins in just the right way.

Molecules move fast, shape-shifting in mere fractions of a second, so the movements are hard to see.

This study marks the first time scientists have been able to map the movements of water molecules at different sites on a much larger protein molecule, and see how those movements influence the form and function of the protein
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Contact: Dongping Zhong
Zhong.28@osu.edu
614-292-3044
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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