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Scientists Unravel the Mystery behind Calbindin-D28K Protein

Researcher Dr. John Cavanagh in association with fellow researchers from the Mayo Clinic and Duke University explain in detail about the shape function //and structure of the protein, calbindin-D28K.

They analyzed the protein with great accuracy and studied its interaction with the other proteins to develop drugs against neurodegenerative diseases. The researchers published the findings in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.Calbindin-D28K is a protein that either grabs calcium from areas that have too much or serves as an on/off switch for further chemical reactions. It is known for its flexibility; it is found in the kidneys, pancreas, ocular nerve and in abundant quantities in the brain. Recent studies show, Cavanagh says, that it acts as a bodyguard in the brain, binding to and inhibiting caspase-3, a protein that stimulates plaque formation and tangle formation, which are hallmark characteristics of neurodegenerative disease.

Until now, however, the structure of calbindin-D28K remained a mystery. ‘If you don't know the shape of the protein, you can't figure out how it works,’ Cavanagh says. ‘It took a long time – about five years – but we've characterized the structure of this protein and found where it binds caspase-3. Insight into how it binds to caspase-3 might lead to a way of exploiting those interactions to develop therapeutics.’ It took a long time to characterize calbindin-D28K, Cavanagh says, because it was initially a challenge to force cells to make enough protein in order to do the requisite studies. Additionally, many parts of the protein are very similar and so are extremely difficult to distinguish from each other. The research team used nuclear magnetic resonance to get a high-resolution picture of what the protein looks like. In this painstaking technique – occurring inside machines that have magnetic fields several hundred times greater than the Earth's magnetic pull – radio waves are bounced off the approx
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