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X-ray Scattering Shines Light on Protein Folding
- Multiple forms of a non-functional, unfolded protein follow different pathways and timelines to reach its folded, functional state, a study reveals. - KAIST researchers have used an X-ray method to track how proteins fold, which could improve computer simulations of this process, with implications for understanding diseases and improving drug discovery. Their findings were reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) on June 30. When proteins are translated from their DNA codes, they quickly transform from a non-functional, unfolded state into their folded, functional state. Problems in folding can lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. “Protein folding is one of the most important biological processes, as it forms the functioning 3D protein structure,” explained the physical chemist Hyotcherl Ihee of the Department of Chemistry at KAIST. Dr. Tae Wu Kim, the lead author of this research from Ihee’s group, added, “Understanding the mechanisms of protein folding is important, and could pave the way for disease study and drug development.” Ihee’s team developed an approach using an X-ray scattering technique to uncover how the protein cytochrome c folds from its initial unfolded state. This protein is composed of a chain of 104 amino acids with an iron-containing heme molecule. It is often used for protein folding studies. The researchers placed the protein in a solution and shined ultraviolet light on it. This process provides electrons to cytochrome c, reducing the iron within it from the ferric to the ferrous form, which initiates folding. As this was happening, the researchers beamed X-rays at very short intervals onto the sample. The X-rays scattered off all the atomic pairs in the sample and a detector continuously recorded the X-ray scattering patterns. The X-ray scattering patterns provided direct information regarding the 3D protein structure and the changes made in these patterns over time showed real-time motion of the protein during the folding process. The team found cytochrome c proteins initially exist in a wide variety of unfolded states. Once the folding process is triggered, they stop by a group of intermediates within 31.6 microseconds, and then those intermediates follow different pathways with different folding times to reach an energetically stable folded state. “We don’t know if this diversity in folding paths can be generalized to other proteins,” Ihee confessed. He continued, “However, we believe that our approach can be used to study other protein folding systems.” Ihee hopes this approach can improve the accuracy of models that simulate protein interactions by including information on their unstructured states. These simulations are important as they can help identify barriers to proper folding and predict a protein’s folded state given its amino acid sequence. Ultimately, the models could help clarify how some diseases develop and how drugs interact with various protein structures. Ihee’s group collaborated with Professor Young Min Rhee at the KAIST Department of Chemistry, and this work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) and the Institute for Basic Science (IBS). Figure. The scientists found that non-functional unfolded forms of the protein cytochrome c follow different pathways and timelines to reach a stable functional folded state. Publications: Kim, T. W., et al. (2020) ‘Protein folding from heterogeneous unfolded state revealed by time-resolved X-ray solution scattering’. PNAS. Volume 117. Issue 26. Page 14996-15005. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1913442117 Profile: Hyotcherl Ihee, Ph.D. Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://time.kaist.ac.kr/ Ihee Laboratory Department of Chemistry KAIST https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Young Min Rhee, Ph.D. Professor email@example.com http://singlet.kaist.ac.kr Rhee Research Group Department of Chemistry KAIST https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea (END)
Professor Hee-Sung Park Named Scientist of May
(Professor Hee-Sung Park) Professor Hee-Sung Park from the Department of Chemistry was named ‘Scientist of May’ sponsored by the Ministry of Science and ICT and the National Research Foundation of Korea. Professor Park was honored in recognition of his developing a tool to engineer designer proteins via diverse chemical modifications. This approach provides a novel platform for investigating numerous diseases such as cancer and dementia. His research focuses on the production of synthetic proteins and the generation of diverse protein functions as well as the designing and engineering of new translation machinery for genetic code expansion, and the application of synthetic biology techniques for basic cell biology and applied medical science. Post-translational modifications (PTMs) are constantly taking place during or after protein biosynthesis. PTMs play a vital role in expanding protein functional diversity and, as a result, critically affect numerous biological processes. Abnormal PTMs have been known to trigger various diseases including cancer and dementia. Therefore, this technology enables proteins to reproduce with specific modifications at selected residues and will significantly help establish experimental strategies to investigate fundamental biological mechanisms including the development of targeted cancer therapies. Professor Park also received 10 million KRW in prize money.
Dr. Ryu of KAIST Receives the S-Oil Outstanding Paper Award
Dr. Je-Kyung Ryu of KAIST’s Department of Physics has been awarded the S-Oil Outstanding Paper Award for his doctoral dissertation’s originality and applicability. Professor Tae-Young Yoon of Physics is his doctoral advisor. The award ceremony took place on November 25, 2015 at the Press Center in Seoul. This S-Oil Outstanding Paper Award, jointly sponsored by the Korean Academy of Science and Technology (KAST) and the Scholastic University Presidential Association, was established to foster young talented scientists in basic science and to advance the field. The award is given every other year for each of the fields of physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and earth sciences. With the award, Dr. Ryu received a research grant of USD 8,600. He discovered, for the first time in the world, how NSF (N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor), a protein involved in a vesicular transport in cellular activities, disassembles a SNARE (soluble NSF attachment protein receptor) complex, using a unimolecular biophysics method. Unlike the existing studies, he proposed a model in which NSF disassembles SNARE complexes at one step, and as a result, provided evidence of how the SNARE complex influenced the fusion of biological membranes. His research was published in the scientific journal Science issued on March 27, 2015. The title of the paper is “Spring-loaded Unraveling of a Single SNARE Complex by NSF in One Round of ATP Turnover.”
Mapping the Folding Process of a Single Membrane Protein
KAIST and UCLA scientists were able to observe an individual membrane protein fold and unfold by pulling and releasing magnetically trapped protein molecules. Proteins are huge molecules containing hundreds to thousands of atoms that adopt a unique three dimensional structure, placing chemical groups in just the right place to catalyze reactions or build cellular structures. How all those atoms manage to find the right location - the so-called folding problem - has fascinated molecular biologists since the first structures were seen in the 1950s. Moreover, folding has important medical implications because most genetic defects cause protein misfolding. About a third of all proteins float around in the cell membrane where they ensure the right chemicals get in the cell in the right amounts. Membrane proteins also provide key information links between the cell and its environment. Indeed, most drugs target membrane proteins. Nevertheless, the folding of membrane proteins has been particularly difficult to study and has rarely been studied in natural environments, leaving the folding process for a large fraction of the protein universe still largely cloaked in mystery. In a recent issue of Nature Chemical Biology, published on October 19, 2015, a research team led by Tae-Young Yoon of the Department of Physics at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and James U. Bowie of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), report a new method for manipulating the folding of membrane proteins in a membrane environment using a tool called a magnetic tweezer. Researchers first attach long DNA handles to the ends of the protein. One handle is attached to a glass surface and the other to a magnetic bead. Using a magnet, they can essentially grab the protein and pull on it, inducing it to unfold. By playing with the bead attached to the protein, they can force the protein to unfold or allow it to refold, and watch all this happening by 3D-tracking of the magnetic bead. With this novel strategy, they were able to quantitatively map the folding energy landscape, the folding kinetic rate, and folding intermediates of a membrane protein in a membrane environment for the first time. “I have been dreaming about this experiment for a decade. To see it work so well is really gratifying,” said Dr. Bowie. One of the major surprises in the study was that essentially all the atoms of the protein jump into the correct structure together. The researchers expected that the protein structure would come together in a more piecemeal fashion, with different parts of the structure forming separately, but that was not the case. It is possible that nature evolved such a smooth, highly cooperative folding process to prevent partially folded forms that could get into trouble in the crowded cell membrane. On the other hand, the cooperative folding seen here might not apply to other membrane proteins. “We need to look at more proteins. The technique developed here may allow us to do just that,” said Dr. Yoon. The single molecule mechanical manipulation technique could enable detailed folding studies of many other membrane proteins. A major barrier to the study of membrane proteins previously is that the proteins tend to stick together and get tangled up, as computer cords lying at your feet tend to do. With the tweezer technique used in this work, the protein cords are held apart from other cords so they can’t get knotted up. It is hoped that the new approach will open up an important part of the protein universe to scrutiny, including many proteins that become misfolded in disease states. The title of the research paper is “Mapping the energy landscape for second-stage folding of a single membrane protein” (DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.1939). Picture: Single-molecule magnetic tweezers that induce mechanical unfolding and refolding of a single membrane protein. Since the force applied is parallel to the biological lipid membrane, the unfolding and refolding processes occur within the membrane.
Professor Ki-Jun Jeong Wins the 2015 Dam Yeun Academic Award
The 11th Dam Yeun Academic Award presented by the Korean Society for Biotechnology and Bioengineering (KSBB) to a biologist under 45 years old went to Professor Ki-Jun Jeong of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at KAIST. The award ceremony took place on October 13, 2015, at the annual conference of KSBB held at Songdo Convensia in Incheon City. Each year KSBB announces the recipient of the award based on the publications by researchers in the last five years at peer-reviewed international journals or KSBB Journal as well as the record of patent registration and technology transfers. Professor Jeong is recognized for his pioneering research in protein, antibody, cellular engineering, and protein displays and chips.
Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho Recognzied by "Scientist of the Month" Award
Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho of KAIST’s Department of Bio and Brain Engineering received the “Scientist of the Month” award in February 2015 from the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea. The award was in recognition of Professor Cho’s contribution to the advanced technique of controlling the death of cancer cells based on systems biology, a convergence research in information technology (IT) and biotechnology. Professor Cho has published around 140 articles in international journals, including 34 papers in renowned science journals such as Nature, Science, and Cell in the past three years. His work also includes systems biology textbooks and many entries in international academic encyclopaedia. His field, systems biology, is a new biological research paradigm that identifies and controls the fundamental principles of organisms on a systems level. A well-known tumour suppressor protein, p53, is known to suppress abnormal cell growth and promote apoptosis of can cells, and thus was a focus of research by many scientists, but its effect has been insignificant and brought many side effects. This was due to the complex function of p53 that controls various positive and negative feedbacks. Therefore, there was a limit to understanding the protein with the existing biological approach. However, Professor Cho found the kinetic change and function of p53 via a systems biology approach. By applying IT technology to complex biological networks, he also identified the response to stress and the survival and death signal transduction pathways of cardiomyocytes and developed new control methods for cancer cells. Professor Cho said, “This award served as a momentum to turn over a new leaf.” He added, “I hope convergence research such as my field will bring more innovative ideas on the boundaries of academia.”
Nanoparticle Cluster Manufacturing Technique Using DNA Binding Protein Developed
Professor Hak-Sung Kim of the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST and Yiseul Ryu, a doctoral candidate, used the Zinc Finger protein that specifically binds to target DNA sequence to develop a new manufacturing technique for size-controllable magnetic Nanoparticle Clusters (NPCs). Their research results were published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition online on 25 November 2014. NPCs are structures consisting of magnetic nanoparticles, gold nanoparticles, and quantum dots, each of which are smaller than 100 nm (10-9m). NPCs have a distinctive property of collectivity not seen in single nanoparticles. Specifically NPCS differ in physical and optical properties such as Plasmon coupling absorbance, energy transfers between particles, electron transfers, and conductivity. Therefore, NPCs can be employed in biological and medical research as well as the development of nanoelectric and nanoplasmon devices. To make use of these novel properties, the size and the composition of the cluster must be exquisitely controlled. However, previous techniques relied on chemical binding which required complex steps, making it difficult to control the size and composition of NPCs. Professor Kim’s team used Zinc Finger, a DNA binding protein, to develop a NPCs manufacturing technique to create clusters of the desired size easily. The Zinc Finger protein contains a zinc ion and specifically recognizes DNA sequence upon binding, which allows the exquisite control of the size and the cluster composition. The technique is also bio-friendly. Professor Kim’s team created linear structure of different sizes of NPCs using Zinc Finger proteins and three DNA sequences of different lengths. The NPCs they produced confirmed their ability to control the size and structure of the cluster by using different DNA lengths. The NPCs showed tripled T2 relaxation rates compared to the existing MRI contrast media (Feridex) and effectively transported to targeted cells. The research findings show the potential use of NPCs in biological and medical fields such as MRI contrast media, fluorescence imaging, and drug transport. The research used the specific binding property of protein and DNA to develop a new method to create an inorganic nanoparticle’s supramolecular assembly. The technique can be used and applied extensively in other nanoparticles for future research in diagnosis, imaging, and drug and gene delivery. Figure 1. A Mimetic Diagram of NPCs Manufacturing Technique Using DNA Binding Protein Zinc Finger Figure 2. Transmission Electron Microscopy Images showing different sizes of NPCs depending on the length of the DNA
Binding Regulatory Mechanism of Protein Biomolecules Revealed
Professor Hak-Sung Kim A research team led by Professor Hak-Sung Kim of Biological Sciences, KAIST, and Dr. Mun-Hyeong Seo, KAIST, has revealed a regulatory mechanism that controls the binding affinity of protein’s biomolecules, which is crucial for the protein to recognize molecules and carry out functions within the body. The research results were published in the April 24th online edition of Nature Communications. The protein, represented by enzyme, antibody, or hormones, specifically recognizes a variety of biomolecules in all organisms and implements signaling or immune response to precisely adjust and maintain important biological processes. The protein binding affinity of biomolecules plays a crucial role in determining the duration of the bond between two molecules, and hence to determine and control the in-vivo function of proteins. The researchers have noted that, during the process of proteins’ recognizing biomolecules, the protein binding affinity of biomolecules is closely linked not only to the size of non-covalent interaction between two molecules, but also to the unique kinetic properties of proteins. To identify the basic mechanism that determines the protein binding affinity of biomolecules, Professor Kim and his research team have made mutation in the allosteric site of protein to create a variety of mutant proteins with the same chemical binding surface, but with the binding affinity vastly differing from 10 to 100 times. The allosteric site of the protein refers to a region which does not directly bind with biomolecules, but crucially influences the biomolecule recognition site. Using real-time analysis at the single-molecule level of unique kinetic properties of the produced mutant proteins, the researchers were able to identify that the protein binding affinity of biomolecules is directly associated with the protein’s specific kinetic characteristics, its structure opening rate. Also, by proving that unique characteristics of the protein can be changed at the allosteric site, instead of protein’s direct binding site with biomolecules, the researchers have demonstrated a new methodology of regulating the in-vivo function of proteins. The researchers expect that these results will contribute greatly to a deeper understanding of protein’s nature that governs various life phenomena and help evaluate the proof of interpreting protein binding affinity of biomolecules from the perspective of protein kinetics. Professor Kim said, “Until now, the protein binding affinity of biomolecules was determined by a direct interaction between two molecules. Our research has identified an important fact that the structure opening rate of proteins also plays a crucial role in determining their binding affinity.” [Picture] A correlation graph of opening rate (kopening) and binding affinity (kd) between protein’s stable, open state and its unstable, partially closed state.
Mechanism in regulation of cancer-related key enzyme, ATM, for DNA damage and repair revealed
Professor Kwang-Wook Choi A research team led by Professor Kwang-Wook Choi and Dr. Seong-Tae Hong from the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST has successfully investigated the operational mechanism of the protein Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated (ATM), an essential protein to the function of a crucial key enzyme that repairs the damaged DNA which stores biometric information. The results were published on December 19th Nature Communications online edition. All organisms, including humans, constantly strive to protect the information within their DNA from damages posed by a number of factors, such as carbonized materials in our daily food intake, radioactive materials such as radon emitting from the cement of buildings or ultraviolet of the sunlight, which could be a trigger for cancer. In order to keep the DNA information safe, the organisms are always carrying out complex and sophisticated DNA repair work, which involves the crucial DNA damage repair protein ATM. Consequently, a faulty ATM leads to higher risks of cancer. Until now, academia predicted that the Translationally Controlled Tumor Protein (TCTP) will play an important role in regulating the function of ATM. However, since most of main research regarding TCTP has only been conducted in cultured cells, it was unable to identify exactly what mechanisms TCTP employs to control ATM. The KAIST research team identified that TCTP can combine with ATM or increase the enzymatic activity of ATM. In addition, Drosophilia, one of the most widely used model organisms for molecular genetics, has been used to identify that TCTP and ATM play a very important role in repairing the DNA damaged by radiation. This information has allowed the researchers to establish TCTP’s essential function in maintaining the DNA information in cell cultures and even in higher organisms, and to provide specific and important clues to the regulation of ATM by TCTP. Professor Kwang-Wook Choi said, “Our research is a good example that basic research using Drosophilia can make important contributions to understanding the process of diseases, such as cancer, and to developing adequate treatment.” The research has been funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, Republic of Korea, and the National Research Foundation of Korea. Figure 1. When the amount of TCTP protein is reduced, cells of the Drosophila's eye are abnormally deformed by radiation. Scale bars = 200mm Figure 2. When the amount of TCTP protein is reduced, the chromosomes of Drosophilia are easily broken by radiation. Scale bars = 10 mm. Figure 3. When gene expressions of TCTP and ATM are reduced, large defects occur in the normal development of the eye. (Left: normal Drosophilia's eye, right: development-deficient eye) Figure 4. ATM marks the position of the broken DNA, with TCTP helping to facilitate this reaction. DNA (blue line) within the cell nucleus is coiled around the histone protein (green cylinder). When DNA is broken, ATM protein attaches a phosphate group (P). Multiple DNA repair protein recognizes the phosphate as a signal that requires repair and gathers at the site.
Therapy developed to induce Angiogenesis of Retina
- Junyeop Lee, Graduate School of Medical Sciences and Engineering - Research results expected to be applied for treatment of diabetic retinopathy A major clue to treatment of retinovascular disease, which causes blindness, has been found. The key to protection of the retinal nerve is the angiogenic protein that promotes healthy retinal vessel growth around the retina, which usually does not receive blood supply readily. This research offers a beginning to the possible improvement of therapy for diabetic retinopathy1 and retinopathy of prematurity2. Also important to the research is the fact that the ophthalmology specialist researcher, currently undergoing professional training, provided the results. KAIST Graduate School of Medical Sciences and Engineering’s Junyeop Lee is the opthalmology specialist, who carried out the research under supervision by academic advisers Gyuyeong Go and Wookjun Yoo. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning as well as the National Research Foundation of Korea have funded his research. The research results have been published as a cover paper on ‘Science Translational Medicine’ on 18th August. This journal is a sister publication of Science, which is prestigious in the field of translational medicine that ties the basic science with clinical medicine. (Thesis title: Angiopoietin-1 Guides Directional Angiogenesis Through Integrin αvβ5 Signaling for Recovery of Ischemic Retinopathy) The traditional treatment of diabetic retinopathy includes laser photocoagulation to destroy the retinal tissues or antibody therapeutics, which prevents vessel proliferation and blood leaking. The advantage of antibody therapeutics3 is that it retains the retinal nerves, however, it is not the fundamental solution but merely a temporary one, which requires repeated treatments. The research team identified that Angiopoietin-14 protein, known as essential for growth and stabilization of vessels, also plays an important role in retinal vessel growth. The protein protects the retinal nerves, as well as provides improvement for retinal ischemia5 that is the root cause of vision loss due to retinal hemorrhages. It is expected to become a key to finding fundamental treatment method – by providing sufficient blood supply to the retina, thereby preserving the retinal nerve functions. The results show that administration of Angiopoietin-1 to retinopathy mouse model promotes growth of healthy vessel growth, further preventing abnormal vessel growth, retinal hemorrhage and vision loss due to retinal ischemia. Junyeop Lee said, “This research has identified that Angiopoietin-1 is an important factor in retinal vessel generation and stabilization. The paradigm will shift from traditional treatment method, which prevents vessel growth, to a new method that generates healthy vessels and strengthens vessel functions.” 1 Diabetic retinopathy: This retinovascular disease is a diabetic complication caused by insufficient blood supply. It is the major causes of blindness in adults. 2 Retinopathy of prematurity: The retinal vascular disease that occurs in premature infants with incomplete retinal vascular development. It is also the most common cause of blindness in children. 3 Antibody Therapeutics: Antibody developed to selectively inhibit abnormal blood vessel growth and leakage. Typical antibody therapeutics is Avastin and Lucentis, which hinder vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). 4 Angiopoietin-1: A critical growth factor that induces the production of healthy blood vessels and maintains the stability of the created vessel. 5 Retinal ischemia: State of ailment where retinal tissue blood supply is not sufficient. Figure 1. Retinopathy mouse models show that, in comparison to the control group, the VEGF-Trap treatment and Angiopoietin-1 (Ang1) treatment groups significantly suppresses the pathological vascular proliferation. In addition, the Ang 1 group show vessel growth toward the central avascular area (region of retinal ischemia), which is not observed in VEGF-Trap treatment. Figure 2. Reduced retinal ischemia, retinal bleeding and blood vessel normalization by Angiopoietin-1. Retinal ischemic region (arrow) and retinal bleeding significantly reduced in the Angiopoietin-1 (Ang1) treatment model in comparison to control group (left). The newly generated vessels in Ang 1 model are structurally supported by perivascular cells as normal retinal vessels do (right).
The new era of personalized cancer diagnosis and treatment
Professor Tae-Young Yoon - Succeeded in observing carcinogenic protein at the molecular level - “Paved the way to customized cancer treatment through accurate analysis of carcinogenic protein” The joint KAIST research team of Professor Tae Young Yoon of the Department of Physics and Professor Won Do Huh of the Department of Biological Sciences have developed the technology to monitor characteristics of carcinogenic protein in cancer tissue – for the first time in the world. The technology makes it possible to analyse the mechanism of cancer development through a small amount of carcinogenic protein from a cancer patient. Therefore, a personalised approach to diagnosis and treatment using the knowledge of the specific mechanism of cancer development in the patient may be possible in the future. Until recently, modern medicine could only speculate on the cause of cancer through statistics. Although developed countries, such as the United States, are known to use a large sequencing technology that analyses the patient’s DNA, identification of the interactions between proteins responsible for causing cancer remained an unanswered question for a long time in medicine. Firstly, Professor Yoon’s research team has developed a fluorescent microscope that can observe even a single molecule. Then, the “Immunoprecipitation method”, a technology to extract a specific protein exploiting the high affinity between antigens and antibodies was developed. Using this technology and the microscope, “Real-Time Single Molecule co-Immunoprecipitation Method” was created. In this way, the team succeeded in observing the interactions between carcinogenic and other proteins at a molecular level, in real time. To validate the developed technology, the team investigated Ras, a carcinogenic protein; its mutation statistically is known to cause around 30% of cancers. The experimental results confirmed that 30-50% of Ras protein was expressed in mouse tumour and human cancer cells. In normal cells, less than 5% of Ras protein was expressed. Thus, the experiment showed that unusual increase in activation of Ras protein induces cancer. The increase in the ratio of active Ras protein can be inferred from existing research data but the measurement of specific numerical data has never been done before. The team suggested a new molecular level diagnosis technique of identifying the progress of cancer in patients through measuring the percentage of activated carcinogenic protein in cancer tissue. Professor Yoon Tae-young said, “This newly developed technology does not require a separate procedure of protein expression or refining, hence the existing proteins in real biological tissues or cancer cells can be observed directly.” He also said, “Since carcinogenic protein can be analyzed accurately, it has opened up the path to customized cancer treatment in the future.” “Since the observation is possible on a molecular level, the technology confers the advantage that researchers can carry out various examinations on a small sample of the cancer patient.” He added, “The clinical trial will start in December 2012 and in a few years customized cancer diagnosis and treatment will be possible.” Meanwhile, the research has been published in Nature Communications (February 19). Many researchers from various fields have participated, regardless of the differences in their speciality, and successfully produced interdisciplinary research. Professor Tae Young Yoon of the Department of Physics and Professors Dae Sik Lim and Won Do Huh of Biological Sciences at KAIST, and Professor Chang Bong Hyun of Computational Science of KIAS contributed to developing the technique. Figure 1: Schematic diagram of observed interactions at the molecular level in real time using fluorescent microscope. The carcinogenic protein from a mouse tumour is fixed on the microchip, and its molecular characteristics are observed live. Figure 2: Molecular interaction data using a molecular level fluorescent microscope. A signal in the form of spike is shown when two proteins combine. This is monitored live using an Electron Multiplying Charge Coupled Device (EMCCD). It shows signal results in bright dots. An organism has an immune system as a defence mechanism to foreign intruders. The immune system is activated when unwanted pathogens or foreign protein are in the body. Antibodies form in recognition of the specific antigen to protect itself. Organisms evolved to form antibodies with high specificity to a certain antigen. Antibodies only react to its complementary antigens. The field of molecular biology uses the affinity between antigens and antibodies to extract specific proteins; a technology called immunoprecipitation. Even in a mixture of many proteins, the protein sought can be extracted using antibodies. Thus immunoprecipitation is widely used to detect pathogens or to extract specific proteins. Technology co-IP is a well-known example that uses immunoprecipitation. The research on interactions between proteins uses co-IP in general. The basis of fixing the antigen on the antibody to extract antigen protein is the same as immunoprecipitation. Then, researchers inject and observe its reaction with the partner protein to observe the interactions and precipitate the antibodies. If the reaction occurs, the partner protein will be found with the antibodies in the precipitations. If not, then the partner protein will not be found. This shows that the two proteins interact. However, the traditional co-IP can be used to infer the interactions between the two proteins although the information of the dynamics on how the reaction occurs is lost. To overcome these shortcomings, the Real-Time Single Molecule co-IP Method enables observation on individual protein level in real time. Therefore, the significance of the new technique is in making observation of interactions more direct and quantitative. Additional Figure 1: Comparison between Conventional co-IP and Real-Time Single Molecule co-IP
Ligand Recognition Mechanism of Protein Identified
Professor Hak-Sung Kim -“Solved the 50 year old mystery of how protein recognises and binds to ligands” - Exciting potential for understanding life phenomena and the further development of highly effective therapeutic agent development KAIST’s Biological Science Department’s Professor Hak-Sung Kim, working in collaboration with Professor Sung-Chul Hong of Department of Physics, Seoul National University, has identified the mechanism of how the protein recognizes and binds to ligands within the human body. The research findings were published in the online edition of Nature Chemical Biology (March 18), which is the most prestigious journal in the field of life science. Since the research identified the mechanism, of which protein recognises and binds to ligands, it will take an essential role in understanding complex life phenomenon by understanding regulatory function of protein. Also, ligand recognition of proteins is closely related to the cause of various diseases. Therefore the research team hopes to contribute to the development of highly effective treatments. Ligands, well-known examples include nucleic acid and proteins, form the structure of an organism or are essential constituents with special functions such as information signalling. In particular, the most important role of protein is recognising and binding to a particular ligand and hence regulating and maintaining life phenomena. The abnormal occurrence of an error in recognition of ligands may lead to various diseases. The research team focused on the repetition of change in protein structure from the most stable “open form” to a relatively unstable “partially closed form”. Professor Kim’s team analysed the change in protein structure when binding to a ligand on a molecular level in real time to explain the ligand recognition mechanism. The research findings showed that ligands prefer the most stable protein structure. The team was the first in the world to identify that ligands alter protein structure to the most stable, the lowest energy level, when it binds to the protein. In addition, the team found that ligands bind to unstable partially-closed forms to change protein structure. The existing models to explain ligand recognition mechanism of protein are “Induced Custom Model”, which involves change in protein structure in binding to ligands, and the “Structure Selection Model”, which argues that ligands select and recognise only the best protein structure out of many. The academic world considers that the team’s research findings have perfectly proved the models through experiments for the first time in the world. Professor Kim explained, “In the presence of ligands, there exists a phenomenon where the speed of altering protein structure is changed. This phenomenon is analysed on a molecular level to prove ligand recognition mechanism of protein for the first time”. He also said, “The 50-year old mystery, that existed only as a hypothesis on biology textbooks and was thought never to be solved, has been confirmed through experiments for the first time.” Figure 1: Proteins, with open and partially open form, recognising and binding to ligands. Figure 2: Ligands temporarily bind to a stable protein structure, open form, which changes into the most stable structure, closed form. In addition, binding to partially closed form also changes protein structure to closed form.
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