The Shape in Water

Measurements of the Folded Structure of Biomolecules in Liquids

NIST-developed method could provide new insights into Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

Credit: NIST

Online —  Tinkering with a method they helped develop over the last few years, scientists have for the first time measured at the nanometer scale the characteristic patterns of folds that give proteins their three-dimensional shape in water.

Developed by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their colleagues, this technique will help scientists gain insights about the behavior of biomolecules in watery environments similar to those in cells.

These insights, in turn, could increase our understanding of major diseases, including Alzheimer’s, that are related to “mistakes” in protein folding.

Life as we know it couldn’t survive if proteins didn’t fold into precise patterns leading to helices, sheets and other shapes that give proteins their three-dimensional structure. The precise shapes of proteins enable them to carry oxygen, fend off harmful bacteria and perform other essential tasks in the body.

Proteins that fold improperly cannot function and sometimes generate toxic fragments, such as those associated with neurodegenerative disorders.

Read the whole story online at: https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2018/07/shape-water-first-nanometer-scale-measurements-folded-structure

Reference:

Paper: G. Ramer, F.S. Ruggeri, A. Levin, T.P. J. Knowles and A. Centrone. Determination of Polypeptide Conformation with Nanoscale Resolution in Water. ACS Nano. Published online June 22, 2018. DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.8b01425