Recent science highlights from the ALS-ENABLE beamlines

Characterizing the forces that hold membrane proteins together

Designed membrane proteins are used to better understand the competing forces that stabilize this category of protein.

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Designer proteins
that fit together 
like DNA

Proteins designed to mimic the structure of DNA can be used as building blocks for self-assembling protein machines. 

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Toward defeating influenza

Structures of several influenza antiviral drug molecules bound to their targets in both open and closed conformations provide an atomic-level blueprint from which to design more effective anti-influenza drugs that can overcome growing drug resistance.

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Designing a protein to capture small molecules

For the first time, scientists have created, entirely from scratch, a protein capable of binding to a small target molecule.

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Decoding a Calcium dependent switch

Certain voltage-gated proteins in cell membranes are responsible for controlling the flow of ions across the membrane and thus are important in electrical activity in the heart and brain. This study using both diffraction and scattering beamlines of ALS-ENABLE revealed the role of calcium in the regulation of a class of these important proteins. 

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How 
antidepressants block serotonin transport

Serotonin is a diminutive and deceptively simple-looking neurotransmitter molecule, yet a very complex “machinery” is required for neurotransmitter recognition, transmission, and recycling. The malfunctioning of this protein machinery can cause conditions such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggression, anxiety, and Parkinson’s disease. In addition, drugs of addiction, such as methamphetamines, act on this system, causing serious damage and profoundly affecting the well-being of individuals. At the ALS, researchers were able to obtain x-ray crystallographic structures of the difficult-to-crystallize human serotonin transporter bound to two commonly prescribed antidepressant drug molecules. The resulting details about the transporter structure and mechanism will help in the design of new, more effective therapeutics for treating depression and anxiety.

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Behind the new gene-editing tool

The CRISPR-Cas system has recently transformed the way that scientists are able to perform gene editing, making it much easier and more accurate than ever before. In this study, the structures of the system with DNA substrates revealed just how specific DNA code is located with such specificity.

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Bending the 
beta sheet to shape protein cavities

This research helped scientists discover the “rules” governing beta-sheet curvature in proteins, which can now be used in further protein design work.

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