Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Sorting out the Structure of a Parkinson’s Protein

Published: Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Computer modeling may resolve conflicting results and offer hints for new drug-design strategies.

Clumps of proteins that accumulate in brain cells are a hallmark of neurological diseases such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Over the past several years, there has been much controversy over the structure of one of those proteins, known as alpha synuclein.

MIT computational scientists have now modeled the structure of that protein, most commonly associated with Parkinson’s, and found that it can take on either of two proposed states — floppy or rigid. The findings suggest that forcing the protein to switch to the rigid structure, which does not aggregate, could offer a new way to treat Parkinson’s, says Collin Stultz, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT.

“If alpha synuclein can really adopt this ordered structure that does not aggregate, you could imagine a drug-design strategy that stabilizes these ordered structures to prevent them from aggregating,” says Stultz, who is the senior author of a paper describing the findings in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

For decades, scientists have believed that alpha synuclein, which forms clumps known as Lewy bodies in brain cells and other neurons, is inherently disordered and floppy. However, in 2011 Harvard University neurologist Dennis Selkoe and colleagues reported that after carefully extracting alpha synuclein from cells, they found it to have a very well-defined, folded structure.

That surprising finding set off a scientific controversy. Some tried and failed to replicate the finding, but scientists at Brandeis University, led by Thomas Pochapsky and Gregory Petsko, also found folded (or ordered) structures in the alpha synuclein protein.

Stultz and his group decided to jump into the fray, working with Pochapsky’s lab, and developed a computer-modeling approach to predict what kind of structures the protein might take. Working with the structural data obtained by the Brandeis researchers, Stultz created a model that calculates the probabilities of many different possible structures, to determine what set of structures would best explain the experimental data.

The calculations suggest that the protein can rapidly switch among many different conformations. At any given time, about 70 percent of individual proteins will be in one of the many possible disordered states, which exist as single molecules of the alpha synuclein protein. When three or four of the proteins join together, they can assume a mix of possible rigid structures, including helices and beta strands (protein chains that can link together to form sheets).

“On the one hand, the people who say it’s disordered are right, because a majority of the protein is disordered,” Stultz says. “And the people who would say that it’s ordered are not wrong; it’s just a very small fraction of the protein that is ordered.”

The MIT researchers also found that when alpha synuclein adopts an ordered structure, similar to that described by Selkoe and co-workers, the portions of the protein that tend to aggregate with other molecules are buried deep within the structure, explaining why those ordered forms do not clump together.

Stultz is now working to figure out what controls the protein’s configuration. There is some evidence that other molecules in the cell can modify alpha synuclein, forcing it to assume one conformation or another.

“If this structure really does exist, we have a new way now of potentially designing drugs that will prevent aggregation of alpha synuclein,” he says.

Lead author of the paper is Thomas Gurry, an MIT graduate student in computational and systems biology. Other authors are Orly Ullman, an MIT graduate student in chemistry; Pochapsky, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Brandeis; Iva Perovic, a graduate student in Pochapsky’s lab; and Charles Fisher, a Harvard graduate student in biophysics.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,900+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,200+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Living a “Mixotrophic” Lifestyle
Some tiny plankton may have big effect on ocean’s carbon storage.
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Mapping Regulatory Elements
Systematically searching DNA for regulatory elements indicates limits of previous thinking
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Curing Disease by Repairing Faulty Genes
New delivery method boosts efficiency of CRISPR genome-editing system.
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Living a “Mixotrophic” Lifestyle
Some tiny plankton may have big effect on ocean’s carbon storage.
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
Faster Drug Discovery?
Startup develops more cost-effective test for assessing how cells respond to chemicals.
Friday, January 29, 2016
No More Insulin Injections?
Encapsulated pancreatic cells offer possible new diabetes treatment.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Engineering Foe into Friend
Bose Grant awardee Jacquin Niles aims to repurpose the malaria parasite for drug delivery.
Monday, January 25, 2016
Synthetic Antibody Detects Proteins
Research could lead to nanosensors that recognize fibrinogen, insulin, or other biomarkers.
Friday, January 15, 2016
Supply Chain
Chemists discover how a single enzyme maintains a cell’s pool of DNA building blocks.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Organ-on-a-Chip
In a step toward personalized drug testing, researchers coax human stem cells to form complex tissues.
Friday, January 08, 2016
Study Reveals Shared Behavior of Microbes And Electrons
Bacteria streaming through a lattice behave like electrons in a magnetic material.
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Study Reveals Shared Behavior of Microbes and Electrons
Bacteria streaming through a lattice behave like electrons in a magnetic material.
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Tracing a Cellular Family Tree
New technique allows tracking of gene expression over generations of cells as they specialize.
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Global Reductions in Mercury Emissions Should Lead to Billions in Economic Benefits for U.S.
Benefits from international regulations may double those of domestic policy.
Monday, January 04, 2016
New Device Uses Carbon Nanotubes to Snag Molecules
Nanotube “forest” in a microfluidic channel may help detect rare proteins and viruses.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Scientific News
Food Triggers Creation of Regulatory T Cells
IBS researchers document how normal diet establishes immune tolerance conditions in the small intestine.
Light Signals from Living Cells
Fluorescent protein markers delivered under high pressure.
Counting Cancer-busting Oxygen Molecules
Researchers from the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP), an Australian Research Centre of Excellence, have shown that nanoparticles used in combination with X-rays, are a viable method for killing cancer cells deep within the living body.
Therapeutic Approach Gives Hope for Multiple Myeloma
A new therapeutic approach tested by a team from Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital (CIUSSS-EST, Montreal) and the University of Montreal gives promising results for the treatment of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow currently considered incurable with conventional chemotherapy and for which the average life expectancy is about 6 or 7 years.
Cellular 'Relief Valve'
A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has solved a long-standing mystery in cell biology by showing essentially how a key “relief-valve” in cells does its job.
Genomic Signature Shared by Five Types of Cancer
National Institutes of Health researchers have identified a striking signature in tumor DNA that occurs in five different types of cancer.
Natural Protein Points to New Inflammation Treatment
Findings may offer insight to effective treatments for inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis.
Genetic Cause of Rare Allergy
Institute has identified a genetic mutation responsible for a rare form of inherited hives induced by vibratory urticaria.
Battery Component Found to Harm Key Soil Microorganism
The material at the heart of the lithium ion batteries that power electric vehicles, laptop computers and smartphones has been shown to impair a key soil bacterium, according to new research.
Keeping Tumor Growth at Bay
Engineers at Washington University in St. Louis found a way to keep a cancerous tumor from growing by using nanoparticles of the main ingredient in common antacid tablets.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,900+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,200+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!