Nav: Home

Rutgers scientists discover 'Legos of life'

January 22, 2018

Rutgers scientists have found the "Legos of life" - four core chemical structures that can be stacked together to build the myriad proteins inside every organism - after smashing and dissecting nearly 10,000 proteins to understand their component parts.

The four building blocks make energy available for humans and all other living organisms, according to a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study's findings could lead to applications of these stackable, organic building blocks for biomedical engineering and therapeutic proteins and the development of safer, more efficient industrial and energy catalysts - proteins and enzymes that, like tireless robots, can repeatedly carry out chemical reactions and transfer energy to perform tasks.

"Understanding these parts and how they are connected to each other within the existing proteins could help us understand how to design new catalysts that could potentially split water, fix nitrogen or do other things that are really important for society," said Paul G. Falkowski, study co-author and a distinguished professor who leads the Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Laboratory at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

The scientists' research was done on computers, using data on the 3D atomic structures of 9,500 proteins in the RCSB Protein Data Bank based at Rutgers, a rich source of information about how proteins work and evolve.

"We don't have a fossil record of what proteins looked like 4 billion years ago, so we have to take what we have today and start walking backwards, trying to imagine what these proteins looked like," said Vikas Nanda, senior author of the study and an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Rutgers' Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, within Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. "The study is the first time we've been able to take something with thousands of amino acids and break it down into reasonable chunks that could have had primordial origins."

The identification of four fundamental building blocks for all proteins is just a beginning. Nanda said future research may discover five or 10 more building blocks that serve as biological Legos.

"Now we need to understand how to put these parts together to make more interesting functional molecules," he said. "That's the next grand challenge."
-end-
The study's lead author is Hagai Raanana, a post-doctoral associate in the Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program. Co-authors include Douglas H. Pike, a doctoral student at the Rutgers Institute for Quantitative Biomedicine, and Eli K. Moore, a post-doctoral associate in the Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program.

Rutgers University

Related Proteins Articles:

Coupled proteins
Researchers from Heidelberg University and Sendai University in Japan used new biotechnological methods to study how human cells react to and further process external signals.
Understanding the power of honey through its proteins
Honey is a culinary staple that can be found in kitchens around the world.
How proteins become embedded in a cell membrane
Many proteins with important biological functions are embedded in a biomembrane in the cells of humans and other living organisms.
Finding the proteins that unpack DNA
A new method allows researchers to systematically identify specialized proteins called 'nuclesome displacing factors' that unpack DNA inside the nucleus of a cell, making the usually dense DNA more accessible for gene expression and other functions.
A brewer's tale of proteins and beer
The transformation of barley grains into beer is an old story, typically starring water, yeast and hops.
New tool for the crystallization of proteins
ETH researchers have developed a new method of crystallizing large membrane proteins in order to determine their structure.
New interaction mechanism of proteins discovered
UZH researchers have discovered a previously unknown way in which proteins interact with one another and cells organize themselves.
When proteins shake hands
Protein nanofibres often have outstanding properties such as a high stability, biodegradability, or antibacterial effect.
Proteins' fluorescence a little less mysterious
Rice University scientists use simulations to understand the mechanism behind a popular fluorescent protein used to monitor signals between neurons.
New study suggests health benefits of swapping animal proteins for plant proteins
Substituting one to two servings of animal proteins with plant proteins every day could lead to a small reduction in the three main cholesterol markers for cardiovascular disease prevention, a new study suggests.
More Proteins News and Proteins Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.