Drug Discovery May be Revolutionized by Scientists’ Findings
Proteins are chains of amino acids that, when folded into certain structural patterns and also when unfolded, exert functions within cells. Proteins receive signals that are transmitted from one to the next and that are essential for life. However, within a given protein, are there “highways” along which the signals travel, like in a relay event? That is to say, how is the information transmitted in a given protein? “This is one of the key questions in biophysics,” said Xavier Salvatella, ICREA Professor at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and head of the Molecular Biophysics Lab.
The most recent study in this field published in Nature Communications, in collaboration with Modesto Orozco, an expert in biocomputational simulations who also works at IRB Barcelona, shows that the transmission of information over large distances occurs within proteins. This transmission has been observed and demonstrated for all proteins containing beta sheets, one of two structural patterns that folded proteins adopt.
“We are discovering the information transmission pathways inside proteins and this concept, which we have validated for one kind of protein structural motif, allows us to speculate that proteins have many valid surfaces on which a drug can act,” related Salvatella.
The team of scientists have discovered how the motions of various parts of proteins, although physically far apart, are correlated. “The same thing happens to proteins as happens to the choreography of ballet dancers, where the movements of the participants are interconnected in spite of being physically apart. If the first one lifts an arm, the last one lifts an arm too,” described the researcher.