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Yale chemists show that nature could have used different protein building blocks

New Haven, Conn. -- Chemists at Yale have done what Mother Nature chose not to make a protein-like molecule out of non-natural building blocks, according to a report featured early online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Nature uses alpha-amino acid building blocks to assemble the proteins that make life as we know it possible. Chemists at Yale now report evidence that nature could have used a different building block beta-amino acids and show that peptides assembled from beta-amino acids can fold into structures much like natural protein.

"The x-ray structure featured in the report shows a molecule that shares many of the structural characteristics of natural proteins," said principal author Alanna Schepartz, the Milton Harris '29 Ph.D. Professor of Chemistry at Yale and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. "Related studies show that the physical properties of the molecule are also remarkably similar to natural proteins. In other words, the beta-peptide assembly looks and acts a lot like a real protein."

The ability to mimic natural proteins makes beta-peptides powerful new tools for basic research and drug discovery. Like a taped recording, their greatest value may be in their difference from a live performance.

"Since beta-peptides are not processed in the cell like natural peptides or proteins, it may be possible in the future to design beta-peptides that perform better or in more locations than current protein drugs," said Schepartz. "They also may have unique properties as biomaterials."

Natural proteins are composed of linear chains of alpha-amino acids. Beta-peptides are composed of beta-amino acids, which have an extra carbon in their backbone. Like alpha-amino acids, beta-amino acids are generated under simulated pre-biotic conditi
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Contact: Janet Rettig Emanuel
janet.emanuel@yale.edu
203-432-2157
Yale University
5-Feb-2007


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