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Protein: Getting to the meat of this essential element

COLLEGE STATION Mention protein and, chances are, thoughts go to meat or a mother lecturing her children about the importance of getting enough of it to grow strong and healthy.

Protein. Think also about cancer, allergies, autoimmune diseases, lupus, transplant rejection, dwarfism, menopause, and a host of other ailments. These turn on or off in a body based on what protein, extremely complex bundles of amino acids, are doing in a given moment.

The problem is, living organisms operate with a variety of tens of thousands of protein structures and, though much research has been done on individual protein systems, little is understood about how different protein systems interact.

Now an effort at Texas A&M University is bringing together all known information in an extensive, searchable internet site called Binding Interface Database.

"No one understands the rules of protein interaction," said Dr. Jerry Tsai, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station bioinformatics researcher. "So we are bringing all that is known together in one place."

After one year, the Binding Interface Database, http://tsailab.tamu.edu/BID, has 245 interacting protein pairs with more than 1,500 "hot spots," or key interaction areas, documented.

"It's like moving a sitting elephant," Tsai said. "It's enormous. We spent about nine months just planning how it would be done."

Tsai's research is what scientists have dubbed "bioinformatics." That is, information technology applied to biology software programs that process information derived from biological systems such as DNA sequence, cell images and protein crystal structures.

"A researcher can come to the site, look at a protein or related protein and get a clue to what proteins relate," said Tiffany Fischer of Dallas, a doctoral biochemistry student who is managing the project with Tsai.

Tsai said others have attempted to create
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Contact: Kathleen Phillips
ka-phillips@tamu.edu
979-845-2872
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
30-Jul-2003


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