Studying 3D Protein Structures to Defeat Infectious Diseases

June 28th 2017
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor

Scientists from the Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Disease (SSGCID) have solved the 3D structure of the 1000th protein from more than 70 organisms that cause infectious diseases.

Scientists from the Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Disease (SSGCID) have solved the 3D structure of the 1000th protein from more than 70 organisms that cause infectious diseases.

The studied proteins were derived from microbes that cause diseases such as anthrax, chlamydia, Clostridium difficile, Ebola virus, flu, giardia, Legionella, Listeria, Lyme disease, and tuberculosis.

SSGCID is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and aims to uncover the structure of proteins that cause pathogens to survive and infect humans, according to a press release.

Learning the precise shape of proteins arms scientists with the tools to develop better treatments and vaccines.

SSGCID biochemist Garry Buchko’s primary expertise is with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). By harnessing the NMR technology, Buchko can scrutinize proteins from pathogen to create an atomic-level picture, according to the release.

The technique works by placing a protein inside an NMR spectrometer, which records information about the orientation, energy, and other properties of each of the atomic nuclei within the molecule.

Buchko will then analyze and interpret the information before feeding all the pieces of data into a computer program that calculates the position of each atom, producing a complete 3D reconstruction of the protein.

Scientists of SSGCID have published more than 100 manuscripts detailing their findings. Furthermore, all structures are immediately shared with the scientific community through the Protein Data Bank. Via the public database, the structures have been used in nearly 600 scientific papers from other institutes. Over the past decade, Buchko has been an author in more than 20 these SSGCID studies.

“When the SSGCID solves protein structures, it lays the foundation for researchers at CID Research and around the world to find new drugs, therapies, and vaccine candidates for diseases that kill thousands each year,” said Peter Myler, who leads SSGCID. “I’m very proud of the hard work carried out by our team and our dedicated partners.”

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