Thursday, 27 October, 2011
New insights into processes vital to cellular functions and human health
Physicists manipulate single molecules to unravel secrets of protein folding
Physicists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) are opening a new window into the life of biological cells, using a technique that lets them grab the ends of a single protein molecule and pull, making continuous, direct measurements as it unfolds and refolds. Their latest results, reported in the journal Science, reveal a complex network of intermediate structural and kinetic states along the way to functionally correct folded forms, including both express routes and dead ends. Better understanding of protein folding is essential because incorrectly folded proteins cause diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The experiments focused on the protein calmodulin, which is not implicated in these diseases but plays a role in many processes vital to cellular functions, and thus to human health.