Magazine article Science News

The Amazing Molecular Maquettes

Magazine article Science News

The Amazing Molecular Maquettes

Article excerpt

The amazing molecular maquettes

Proteins, in a manner of speaking, act as the body's busy bees. Whereas DNNs genetic code lays out the architectural plans for making an organism, proteins carry out many of the building and operating functions. That is, they do the work.

Thus the ability to design and make proteins from scratch has great appeal for biochemists. Once they've decided what task they want done, chemists can - at least in theory - make a simple version of the molecule needed to do that task. This could make possible many creative applications, ranging from medical treatments to biological sensors.

In the March 31 NATURE, Dan E. Robertson, a chemist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and his colleagues describe a way to design and make a multiheine protein, one distinguished by its ability to transfer energy. Falling into the same category as myoglobin, hemoglobin, and certain enzymes, proteins like these can accept and reject electrons. Thus, they can move energy across cell membranes and do bona fide biological work. Photosynthesis and cell respiration, for example, require this type of electron travel.

Robertson's team reports fashioning a peptide - or chunk of a protein -with four helices. Hooked to that peptide are the four key heine groups - similar to those of red blood cells' oxygen-ferrying molecules - characterized by iron atoms embedded in them.

This molecule is an "essential intermediate" - or steppingstone - for synthesizing "molecular maquettes," the researchers declare. …

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