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New method for 'visualizing' proteins

ITHACA, N.Y. -- A newly established national biomedical center at Cornell University is reporting its first major advance: a new way of measuring, or "visualizing," proteins. The new technique will hasten the transformation of the human genome project's blueprints of life into a comprehensive view of the biochemical and physiological circuitry that interconnect to form entire organisms.

The technique, which determines the structure of a protein by measuring the distances between atoms in the molecule at greater separations than previously possible, is an important development, says Jack Freed, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell, who is director of the National Biomedical Center for Advanced ESR Technology (ACERT), established at Cornell last year by the National Institutes of Health. "This is in the spirit of seeing the whole forest of the protein, whereas before we have been seeing the trees one after another," says Freed.

Freed and his collaborators, Hassane Mchaourab, professor of molecular physiology and biophysics at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and Peter Borbat, associate director of ACERT, report on the new method for protein structure determination in JACS , the Journal of the American Chemical Society (May 22, 2002).

"This technique is potentially very powerful for the investigation of larger protein assemblies and membrane proteins," says Yeon-Kyun Shin, associate professor of biophysics at Iowa State University and a major user of the ACERT facility.

The new method for seeing the structure of the protein uses ESR (electron spin resonance), a technology for studying the bonds, structures, and molecular mechanisms of chemical and biological materials, such as membranes and proteins. Basically, the technique elucidates how molecules move, react and interact with one another. The protein studied for the JACS report, T4 Lysozyme, is one of the proteins of a bacteriophage, or virus,
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Contact: David Brand
deb27@cornell.edu
607-255-3651
Cornell University News Service
19-Jun-2002


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