Sophisticated molecular machines in action | 11/4/2014 | Staff
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Almost all living organisms from bacteria to humans have gate-like protein complexes in their cell membranes that get rid of unwanted or life-threatening molecules. This is not always advantageous, since in the case of bacteria or cancer cells, these complexes, known as ABC transporters, are also responsible for resistance to antibiotics or chemotherapy. Researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt, together with the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, which is also located in Frankfurt, have now succeeded in decrypting all the stages of the transport mechanism.

Over the past five years, the research group led by Robert Tampé at the Institute of Biochemistry of Goethe University Frankfurt has invested considerable effort in preparing samples of sensitive membrane protein complexes in such a way that they can be examined in membrane environment by means of cryo-electron microscopy. Cryo-electron microscopy delivers high-resolution images by freezing the molecules so that blurring is reduced to a minimum when they are in motion.

Aim - Images - Molecules - ABC - Transporters

If the aim is not only to produce clear images of complex molecules, such as ABC transporters, but also to observe them at work, snapshots of different stages are required. The team of biochemists led by Tampé was able to trigger these stages deliberately by supplying the transporter with different concentrations of...
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