Protein function predicted with new 'THEMATICS' method developed by Northeastern University & Brandeis scientists

October 30, 2001

BOSTON, Mass. -- Rarely a day goes by when we don't hear of new developments in the human genome project and genomes of other species. The sequencing of genomes has lent a wealth of new information to researchers about protein sequences and structures. This information holds tremendous potential and promise for many benefits to humankind, especially new approaches to the treatment of diseases. However, first this genomic information must be interpreted and understood. From the structures of proteins newly discovered from genomic data, it must be determined what exactly these proteins do. Scientists at Northeastern University and Brandeis University have discovered a way to take a critical step in determining their function.

A new technique called THEMATICS - Theoretical Microscopic Titration Curves - uses a simple computation to predict the function of a protein. This method has been used successfully to locate the active sites of a number of different kinds of proteins, and will prove highly valuable in transforming information from the human genome into useful form.

"What is most amazing about this method is its simplicity," notes Northeastern University Professor of Chemistry Mary Jo Ondrechen. "The calculations are very easy to do and relatively fast." An article scheduled for publication in the October 23, 2001 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and just published in the online version of PNAS, reports on the THEMATICS method, authored by Ondrechen and Brandeis University scientists Dr. James G. Clifton and Professor eDagmar Ringe.

"The method will help in the understanding of newly discovered genes and newly discovered proteins. The method also holds promise as a tool to guide the discovery of new pharmaceuticals to treat disease," says Ondrechen. Professor Ondrechen works in the area of theoretical and computational chemistry: explaining observed phenomena and predicting new phenomena. Her interest lies in the rational design of materials, the study of enzyme-substrate interactions, and the development of new tools for bioinformatics.
Northeastern University, a private research institution located in Boston, Massachusetts, is a world leader in practice-oriented education. Building on its flagship cooperative education program, Northeastern links classroom learning with workplace experience and integrates professional preparation with study in the liberal arts and sciences.

Northeastern University

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