Scientists Develop New Tool for Turning Proteins On and Off

Scientists Develop New Tool for Turning Proteins On and Off

Proteins could be managed with the light of various wavelengths. Even several at once, because of a brand new tool.

Scientists Develop New Tool for Turning Proteins On and Off

Light-sensitive proteins, also called optogenetic tools, can be turned on and off by light pulses, thus triggering certain cellular processes. Researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum have characterized a brand new optogenetic tool, the protein parapinopsin, which can be turned on and off with very weak light signals.

The excitation wavelengths required for this application differ from those utilized by other identified optogenetic tools. Hence, it’s possible to use two such tools at the same time. The groups led by Prof. Stefan Herlitze and Prof. Klaus Gerwert report on these observations in the story of the journal ChemBioChem from March 2.

While the researchers had previously centered on studying the protein melanopsin, they now used parapinopsin. “This instrument is an opsin, i.e., a G protein-coupled, light-sensitive receptor from the pineal organ of the Japanese lamprey,” explains Dennis Eickelbeck from the Division of General Zoology and Neurobiology at RUB.

By combining these experimental approaches, the researchers at the Division of Biophysics created a first 3D structural model of parapinopsin utilizing computer-aided strategies.

Since the wavelength used for switching on is far in the UV range, UV-Lamp can theoretically be used concurrently with other optogenetic tools.

Of equal interest to the researchers is the fact that the protein is extremely light-delicate. Accordingly, extremely short light pulses of low intensity in the range of milliseconds are ample for the continuous control of the corresponding signaling pathway. Hence, the possible hazardous results of light radiation on the cells are eliminated.

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