June 11, 2012
Tiny Living Machines Self-assemble
Insight may help the development of methods to treat diseases at the nanoscale
Enabling bioengineers to design new molecular machines for nanotechnology applications is one of the possible outcomes of a study by University of Montreal researchers that was published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology today. The scientists have developed a new approach to visualize how proteins assemble, which may also significantly aid our understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, which are caused by errors in assembly.
"To understand how a protein goes from a linear chain to a unique assembled structure, we need to capture snapshots of its shape at each stage of assembly said Dr. Alexis VallÃ©e-BÃ©lisle, first author of the study. "The problem is that each step exists for a fleetingly short time and no available technique enables us to obtain precise structural information on these states within such a small time frame. We developed a strategy to monitor protein assembly by integrating fluorescent probes throughout the linear protein chain so that we could detect the structure of each stage of protein assembly, step by step to its final structure." The protein assembly process is not the end of its journey, as a protein can change, through chemical modifications or with age, to take on different forms and functions. "Understanding how a protein goes from being one thing to becoming another is the first step towards understanding and designing protein nanomachines for biotechnologies such as medical and environmental diagnostic sensors, drug synthesis of delivery," VallÃ©e-BÃ©lisle said.
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