Cryo-electron microscopy reveals structures of protein that maintains cell membranes

phys.org | 4/5/2019 | Staff
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On the raw electron micrographs (A), one can find the individual protein molecules (green boxes). By taking an average of thousands of such similarly oriented particles, one can get sharp two-dimensional images (B), from which one can calculate the protein's three-dimensional structure (C). Finally, one can interpret this result by building a model of the protein (D). Credit: Milena Timcenko.

Using cutting-edge electron microscopy, researchers from Aarhus University have determined the first structures of a lipid-flippase. The discoveries provide a better understanding of the basics of how cells work and stay healthy, and can eventually increase our knowledge of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Cells - Cell - Membrane - Defines - Interior

All cells are surrounded by a cell membrane that defines and protects the interior of the cell from the outside world. The membrane consists of two layers of fats called lipids, and the distribution of specific types of lipids between the two sides of the membrane is of great importance for the cell to remain healthy and act dynamically. As lipid flippases are a membrane protein, they are located in the cell's membranes, and they are of great importance to the properties of the membrane, where they move lipids from the cell membrane's exterior to the inner layer.

The researchers have studied the lipid flippase Drs2/Cdc50, which is found in yeast cells, where it actively moves lipids from one side of the cell membrane to the other. Similar proteins are found in many variants in humans, where they are also linked to very active processes in brain cells and thus to mechanisms that are central to neurological diseases and dementia, e.g. Alzheimer's disease.

Protein - Chain - Acids - Structure - Function

A protein roughly consists of a long chain of amino acids that folds into a three-dimensional structure that is crucial to their function. The experimental determination of the 3-D structures of protein molecules requires advanced techniques and...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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