—Jack-Of-All-Trades Detergents “Biochemistry: Versatile molecules aid multiple stages of membrane-protein structure determination” A new class of detergents with quaternary carbon centers could become handy tools for obtaining structures of membrane proteins, a new study suggests. Membrane-embedded proteins play crucial roles in biology and are often drug targets, but it's notoriously difficult to determine what they look like. Detergents, amphiphilic molecules with polar heads and nonpolar tails, play several roles in membrane protein structure determination. They extricate proteins from their native environment in a cell membrane, keep the freed proteins stable, and aid crystallization. But conventional detergents don't always do all those jobs well. From a molecular standpoint, detergents tend to be either very flexible or very rigid. To come up with new tools, "we wondered if we could tune that flexibility," says chemist Samuel H. Gellman of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Gellman's postdoctoral colleague Pil Seok Chae had the idea to create detergents with intermediate flexibility by fusing various amphiphiles.
by Carmen Drahl |
November 08, 2010