Case Western Reserve University-led team takes high resolution photo of a K+ channel

July 13, 2010

CLEVELAND - July 13, 2010 - Using chemical labeling and mass spectrometry-based techniques, Mark Chance, PhD, director of the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics and professor of physiology and biophysics; Sayan Gupta, PhD, instructor at the Case Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics; and a research team from the University of Oxford, for the first time, were able to take a high resolution picture of the open state of a K+ channel, allowing them to comparatively analyze gating mechanisms important to heart function and nerve signaling - in addition these techniques have already permitted Case Western investigators to gain a deeper understanding of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs).

GPCRs, the targets of more than half of all pharmaceutical drugs, are important signaling molecules and help regulate proper channel function. With a new window on the open state of the channel, researchers have an opportunity to better understand the effectiveness of drugs used to treat and prevent cardiovascular diseases.

"The discoveries made by Mark [Chance] and his team have the potential to revolutionize modern medicine as we know it," said Daniel Simon, MD, Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, director of the Case Cardiovascular Center and the Herman K. Hellerstein Professor of Cardiovascular Research at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. "With an advanced understanding of GPCRs and ion channels comes a better understanding of how modern medicine works, which would theoretically increase pharmaceutical efficiency and enhance the quality of countless cardiovascular-related drugs."

In the study, published in the July edition and featured on the cover of the July issue of Structure, Dr. Chance and his research team discovered the details of the paths by which ions flow through the inwardly-rectifying potassium channel KirBac3.1.The results of this study provide support for a newly proposed gating mechanism of the K+ channel, which if perfected, could offer scientists a new method of probing other important membrane proteins and ion channels that could lead to advancements in the field of cardiovascular medicine. Cardiovascular complications such as stroke and coronary heart disease remain the number one cause of death in all Americans*.

NIBIB Grant for $1.1M to Continue Structural Protein Footprinting Research

To further support his research efforts, Dr. Chance and the Case Western Reserve Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics received a four-year grant totaling $1.1 million from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). The grant work will be performed in collaboration with Krzysztof Palczewski, PhD, chair of the Department of Pharmacology at Case Western Reserve University, and Dr. Gupta, instructor at the Case Center for Synchrotron Biosciences (CSB) in New York. Dr. Chance is also the director of the CSB, which provides unique facilities to carry out protein footprinting experiments on GPCRs and their complexes.

"Determining the structure of membrane proteins like GPCRs is particularly difficult, while understanding how drugs function to turn them on and off is even harder, but very important to treating major diseases like depression, heart failure, and diabetes," Dr. Chance said of his research. "Our techniques have provided novel insight into addressing these questions and this funding from the NIH will accelerate these studies."

With this funding, Dr. Chance and co-investigators will continue their development of new biotechnology methods to study GPCRs. The aim of their research is as follows:
Drs. Chance, Palczewski, Gupta and others have previously published their footprinting/GPCR research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

*American Heart Association

About Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Founded in 1843, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is the largest medical research institution in Ohio and is among the nation's top medical schools for research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The School of Medicine is recognized throughout the international medical community for outstanding achievements in teaching. The School's innovative and pioneering Western Reserve2 curriculum interweaves four themes--research and scholarship, clinical mastery, leadership, and civic professionalism--to prepare students for the practice of evidence-based medicine in the rapidly changing health care environment of the 21st century. Nine Nobel Laureates have been affiliated with the school of medicine.

Annually, the School of Medicine trains more than 800 MD and MD/PhD students and ranks in the top 20 among U.S. research-oriented medical schools as designated by U.S. News &World Report "Guide to Graduate Education."

The School of Medicine's primary affiliate is University Hospitals Case Medical Center and is additionally affiliated with MetroHealth Medical Center, the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic, with which it established the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in 2002.

Case Western Reserve University

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